Sydney is commonly mistaken by many as the capital city of Australia. I’m guilty of that when I was young. Our initial plan was to go to Germany and BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) but apparently serving the country took precedence for hubby hence we have to “discount” our year-end trip to 1 week only so Asia was the only option. The radiation situation in Japan had not subsided so I guess we can make do with the neighbouring country instead although I much prefer sushi to kimchi. After searching from various airlines portals, I discovered that the cheapest flight to Seoul cost almost the same to Sydney so might as well we go to down under. Since Busu and Mak Busu’s visas were still valid, they agreed on Sydney too. The best part was, Garuda had a promo fare to Australia so we quickly booked it, departing on 21st November for a week-long. Next on the list, car rental and accommodation.
I was unanimously appointed as the official travel planner. I guess thanks to my decade-long experience working in RCI. I created an excel spreadsheet on what to bring, list of attractions to visit, the cost of tickets if any, nearby mosques, and halal eateries. What I had in mind was to visit the iconic Opera House. I’d also heard of the Blue Mountains but had no idea what to see there. So I asked my boyfriend and he told me that there are abundant of places to visit in New South Wales, not just in central Sydney. My boyfriend is Mr Google by the way. In Sydney town itself, apart from the Sydney Opera House, we can visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Tower Eye. I also just found out that there’s Madame Tussauds in Sydney! Interesting! My instinct was telling me that there are so much more the east coast has to offer so I contacted my old friend, Risa, and sought her advice because she’d been there. She recommended Jervis Bay and Kiama Blowhole. She also advised that we go to the Featherdale Wildlife Park instead of the Sydney Zoo. Point taken! After getting everyone’s go-signal, we have finalized to include the followings in our itineraries.
• Sydney Opera House
• Sydney Harbour Bridge
• Scenic World Blue Mountains
• Jervis Bay
• Kiama Blowhole
• Sydney Tower Eye
• SEA Life Sydney Aquarium
• Madame Tussauds
• Featherdale Wildlife Park
Just when we thought we could indulge in luxury car rental (yeah right), we had to realistically settle down with a van to ferry all 6 adults and 2 kids. Found a good deal from Scoot car rental for a Hyundai iMax 8-seater (actual supplier was East Coast Car Rental).
Last but not least, finding a place where we can call home. Airbnb is an excellent website for home-stays and since we are going to a non-Muslim country, we know we are going to spend 50% of our time in the kitchen. We contacted several owners and finally booked the lovely house of Khrista and Shanil.
Our family had been to Perth and Gold Coast (including a day trip to Mandurah and Brisbane respectively) but we never expected Sydney to be entirely different. From uneven roads to traffic congestion, every increase in mileage bore new surprises.
We’d heard lots of stories that Sydneysiders are racist. They simply dislike Asians probably because there are lots of us there. It also didn’t help when ISIS is the new 4-letter fearsome word spreading rapidly in mainstream media causing more hatred towards Muslims. Before our trip, we exercise caution blended with fear. We were ready to accept death stares, unfriendliness, rudeness and all racist remarks that will be slammed. We could only retaliate in silence in order not to offend anyone, especially the locals. Furthermore, we had 2 young kids who require our protection.
To our surprise, they were NOTHING like what I described above. They are welcoming and friendly, with smiles dabbed on their faces 24/7. Even the immigration officers are helpful. We did not experience any racism at all! All those service-providers places that we go to, be it telco or car rental company, supermarkets or restaurants, they never fail to say “Hello! How are you?”. It is indeed a pleasant experience. We were not mistreated or judged, even when some of us were donning the Hijab. They treated us fairly and respectfully, smiling consistently. Looks like I managed to bust a myth!
Driving in Perth and Gold Coast was a joy. Unfortunately, I could not say the same for Sydney. Firstly, the ground was not flat. I felt like driving on a camel’s back, up and down, up and down. Trucks and Optimus Prime-wannabes hogged the middle lane so I chose to drive on the right lane. Then I got stuck because other vehicles were turning right in the upcoming cross junction, resulting a blockade. So I’d decided to drive on the left instead, only to discover that the lane will be merged. The number of merging lanes are beyond count! Fine! Like it or not, I just stuck to the middle lane and overtook the “giants” whenever I got the chance. It was only a matter of minutes, those 18-wheeler trucks overtook me again. Yes, they were driving beyond the speed limit and were really fast! I left my Lewis Hamilton soul in Singapore because I couldn’t afford to speed. Plus, getting a fine in a foreign country was the last thing that I wanted. Oh FYI, these humongous daredevils can drive in the right lane in the freeway and the speed limit is 110km/h. So can you imagine how fast they are going??? But…… It was not all bad driving in Sydney. The drivers were very patient and considerate. Singaporeans should adopt this attitude. Whenever I came across a “give way” or “stop line”, the vehicles would actually take turns to move forward. This allows traffic to flow smoothly from both sides. They will also give way when you signal early that is why it is very rare to hear cars honking.
Our accommodation in Sydney was a mix of pleasant and weird. We were expecting comfortable beds for everyone because the website stated that “the house can accommodate 8 pax with 5 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. The house also boasts two double bedrooms on the top floor, a double and single bedroom in the ground floor, and a double bedroom in the lower ground floor. The lower ground floor is not always available due to long-term renting”. When we arrived, we discovered that the double bed on the ground floor was actually a double sofabed. 1 of the rooms on the top floor had kids bunk beds. Only the other room had a proper double bed. Since my MIL had knee problem, hubby and I decided to let them have the double sofabed. It’s not advisable for her to be going up and down the stairs. The funny part was, all the toilet and bathrooms cannot be locked! It’s a good thing we are a close-knit family otherwise it would be extremely awkward. On the positive note, the kitchen was huge and all electronic appliances were in good and working condition. That really helped us a lot because we fully depended on them for our tummies and fresh, clean clothes. 🙂
Overall, we enjoyed our trip tremendously. I don’t mind returning, only to visit the Blue Mountains, Jervis Bay and Kiama Blowhole. I also learnt that it’s more advisable to pay slightly more and stay somewhere central (eg. Swissotel, Four Points or Ibis Hotel) than paying for the cost of car rental, the exorbitant car park charges and tolls. If we decided to travel outside the city, then we can just either take the train or rent a car for a day or two.
I shall end this with a review on Sydney airport. In case you all didn’t know by now, Sydney Airport, also known as Kingsford-Smith Airport, DOES NOT operate 24/7. T1 opening hours is from 3am – 11pm and T2 opens 1 hour later, at 4am. We had no issue during arrival but departure was catastrophic. I strongly recommend that you arrive 3 hours (or even 4 hours) prior to your departure and you will eventually know why. We arrived at the airport 2 hours prior and joined the queue to get our boarding pass. By the time we got it, it was already 1 hour to boarding time. We ran as fast as we could and then felt like crying upon seeing the queue at the immigration. It was like queuing for Hello Kitty or Koi Bubble Tea when it just opened. We had this paranoia that we will miss the flight. Once we passed through custom, we sprinted to the boarding gate. We didn’t even get the chance to shop at duty free and that sucks big time! Well, at least we didn’t miss the flight so that’s good news.
Do read up on our 7-days itineraries by clicking on the following links. I hope it’s informative enough if you ever want to go to New South Wales. 🙂
Do share your views and post any questions you have in the comments box and I will have them answered in an instant! 🙂