New Year in Sydney

Sydney Opera House

It is new year’s day in Sydney Australia. We get a late start today because we were up late. Luckily I am not hungover from last night’s celebrations.

After visiting both Melbourne and Sydney I decide Melbourne is more my style but I think I would like Sydney more if I didn’t visit in the middle of their darn summer! It is quite warm here – as is most of my travels lately. However it is nice to be with family though. It is also nice to travel with someone who is compatible with my travel style right now. Prior to my sabbatical I would take 2 week or shorter trips where I would book every moment moment possible with stuff to do. I cannot do that type of travel on this trip or I will burn out. It helps to travel with someone who has already been to Sydney and doesn’t have an urge to see everything that can be seen.

We didn’t just sit around during our visit though: We crossed off a bucket list item by booking tickets for show at the Sydney Opera house on New Years Day. We witnessed great performers singing opera hits.

What an experience!

Bondi to Coogee

Easily accessible by train and bus we took the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. It is a beautiful and warm day and the views of the coast are great.

Along our walk we see Sydney ocean pools some of which were constructed in the late 1800’s. They are a very interesting concept. I enjoy looking at them and the different rock formations along the coast.

Are you my friend?

Still in Sydney for a couple more days. I’ll talk more about my visit in one more post!

Arriving in Sydney

I have just arrived in Sydney Australia where I am going to spend about a week. For this visit I will be with family. My cousin and his partner live in Sydney and I am meeting up with them and my aunt who will be joining me from the USA. I’ve been away from family & friends so long so it is nice to break up my solo travel with some family time.

My aunt has arrived before me and secured our shared hotel room. I travel from the airport to our hotel by using public transportation instead of uber or taxi to save some money. There is a train from the airport but I must do a switch at one of the stations. The travel isn’t too bad except it is a little confusing finding my next train with the construction at Central station – I find myself walking back and forth a couple times to find the correct platform. I do finally find my train and arrive to my destination station at Kings Cross in the Potts Point neighborhood. The map shows a short walk to my hotel but 75% of it is completely uphill. Not so much fun with my heavy backpack on a warm day.

Potts point seems like a safe area. Many things are in walking distance and there are some nice cafes nearby. Most importantly we can walk to my cousin’s place from Potts point if we desire.

My first day in Sydney is low key. I get to see my cousin’s apartment in the city. It is in a great location with some good views.

The next morning I wake up and read the news before I start getting ready to walk around town with my aunt and cousin. While I am checking the news I come across an article on the Australian fires, an activity that is normal for me during the last couple weeks. The fires have been quite terrible but in the latest news I read about a fire tornado. A truck has flipped over and a volunteer firefighter from Victoria has died. Shocking as that news is to read it is even more shocking when I realize I recognize the name of the firefighter. A year and a half earlier I traveled to Peru on a tour with him and his wife. During that trip they were celebrating their honeymoon and now they were expecting their first child. I am heartbroken to read the news. Unfortunately I had not kept in touch with the couple directly but we had a Facebook group that was created to facilitate the sharing of group photos. I take some time to pause and reach out to some other tour members to let them know what I had learned. These fires are horrible and are really taking their toll on the country. It leaves me conflicted because I am now in Sydney and today is new years eve. Sydney is known for their fireworks displays. Despite the horrible fire conditions the fireworks are going on as planned. I would not blame Sydney if they cancelled them. A cancelled firework display after I have traveled this far would be disappointing but understandable. The government decides the activity seems low risk since Sydney is sort of protected by the city. The show goes on I guess…

Once we meet up with my cousin we wander around the city a bit today.

We walk across the Sydney harbor bridge. I notice the setup for the fireworks show. The bridge will close later in preparation for the fireworks display.

View of brutalism building . People say it’s ugly but I sort of like it.

We stop at a historic pub for a pint. There is supposed to be a trap door. We have fun looking for it.

Walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens.

My aunt and I head back to our hotel to clean up and grab some snacks and drinks for the evening celebration.

Once at my cousin’s we snack and enjoy the view, patiently waiting for midnight.

We head to the roof and soon the fireworks start.

What a fun once in a lifetime (maybe) experience!

My aunt and I walk back to our hotel since there is no way we’ll be able to pay for surge prices on uber. Luckily there are lots of people out late so it is pretty safe.

Good night!

Last days of Melbourne

As I said before I am loving my time in Melbourne. Keeping in with the theme I am keeping my visit casual and at times lazy. I need the downtime during travel but it always comes with guilt that I didn’t see and do all the things I could have during my stay.

I spend some time wandering around the neighborhood I am staying in.

My apartment building

I once again walk by the large church of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

I walk by the building below and admire the metal terraces. I would have loved to see the inside.

Tasma Terrace

The Old Treasury Building

I also visit the museum in The Old Treasury Building.

City then and now

I view an informative exhibit of aborigines during the gold rush.

I enjoyed the exbibit of Wayward women of Victoria. The exhibit features some women from the turn of the century 1900 who didn’t fit in the moral standards of the time: some are criminals, some are just trying to survive.

Koorie Heritage Trust

Later I walk over to the aboriginal museum Koorie Heritage Trust. It is a small museum but highlights some of the aboriginal history in Victoria.

Melbourne has a replica of the fearless girl statue!

The new Star Wars movie has just be released at the theaters. I decide to head to the nearby theater for a viewing. They sell craft cocktails at the theatre concession.

After the movie I wander around some more local neighborhoods. This time I wander through Fitzroy which is nearby my apartment. It has the same feel as my Collingwood but doesn’t contain as much new construction.

I see housing created out of what seems like shipping crates.

More fun row homes.

And more street art.

I stop at a couple more breweries as time allows.

The first brewery is Fixation Brewing Co. I sip my beer and watch the large dog at the table next to me continually tangle himself with the leash around the chairs.

Molly Rose Brewing is a small brewery where I sneak in one glass before closing.

At some point I end up in a grocery store where I educate myself about the difference between pasta sauce (tomato sauce) and tomato sauce (ketup).

I head back and pack up. The next day I am heading to Sydney. I am taking the skybus to the airport once more but I arrive early for my ride so I wander around the train station for a bit before I catch my flight.

Soon I am on my plane with a nice bottle of wine. See you in Sydney!

Ho Chi Minh City Day tour

I book a couple of day tours in Saigon. Logistically it just seemed easier to do so then plan my own transportation to all the different sites. There is a travel agency in the lobby of my hotel’s sister hotel. I book my tours through them. The first tour I book is a Ho Chi Minh City day tour. It is a 1/2 day tour with an optional Cu Chi tunnels afternoon tour (another post about that).

Not loving my tour companions for today’s day tour. They show up 30 min late because their breakfast is more important than the rest of the tour and now we are still waiting to leave for them to finish their cigarettes. Eventually they get in the van and we head to our first destination.

Independence Palace, or Reunification Palace

First stop is the Independence Palace. This headquarters of the South Vietnamese almost seems frozen in time.

We are given a tour of the underground bunker. The original maps and charts are still in place from the war. You can see how they kept track of troops and casualties.

After the reunification palace we stopped by an old temple Taoist temple

Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda)

Temple for a Taoist god built in early 1900’s.

War Remnants museum

Next we stop at the very powerful War Remnants Museum.

A thorough museum on the vietnam war but from a south vietnamese perspective.

*TRIGGER WARNING* There is a very hard to see photo exhibit on the affects of agent orange on the population. One would have to be a monster to come out of there without tears in their eyes. Out of respect I did not take photos of that section. Only the piece of art below.

We complete the morning tour with a visit to the historic post office and the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Notre Dame Cathedral

Historic Central Post Office

Part two of my day tour includes a visit to the Cu chi tunnels. I’ll post about that later.

Giza Pyramids and Sphinx

Finally it is time to start seeing the goods. Today is the busy sightseeing day but first it is the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx.

We start early with a drive where we go by the new Egyptian Museum (soon to be open?) and we can see the pyramids off in the distance.

New Egyptian Museum

After looking at the pyramids at a couple different angles it is time to climb on in.

The crowds inside were not as bad as I had been led to believe. It could be because there was some men outside limiting the amount of people who could enter at one time. One guy acted as a sort of guide for us by telling us when to go where and then he rushed us out. After we left it seems like he wasn’t there in an official capacity and we probably could have just ignored him. He was looking for tips at the end. I guess it did help keep it less crowded inside but I didn’t like my experience rushed.

Just a plain black room inside. Not very exciting but I did the thing (went inside).
Camels hanging out.

Also we had the option of visiting the tomb of Seshem Nefer Theti.

Soon we get into the car for another vantage point to see the sphinx.

The sphinx is under repair and the don’t let us get too close.

After our stop at the sphinx our guide took us to a location where we had a demonstration on how to make papyrus. Finished products were for sale of course but I did not purchase any.

Some glow in the dark!!!

Finally we broke up the day with lunch. Our guide asked us where we wanted to eat and we assumed he would take us somewhere to get something locals eat. He suggested Mc Donalds and we all thought he was joking. Turns out he was serious. He stopped at McDonalds for lunch in the interest of time. Oh well, it happens some times.