I hopped on a plane again, alone. This time, it will be one of the most unanticipated journeys of my life, due to the long hours sitting on a budget airlines’ economy class. My adventurous holiday in Sydney started at Changi International Airport, Singapore. Unfortunately, that is all I can afford despite years of working hard. But that is a different story.
Sydney is located in New South Wales, Australia‘s eastern coastline. Other notable features that draw Sydney’s city line include Sydney Harbour, the Royal National Park, Royal Botanic Garden, and Hyde Park, one of the oldest parkland in the country. I think it’s only natural that many tourists are taking pictures of Sydney’s most iconic attractions such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House.
I planned carefully on how I can avoid going to the airplane toilet for 8.5 hours by controlling my liquid and food intake. Funny how I manage to lose my appetite without even trying hard. After 7.5 hours in my seat, I decided to make my order and have something. I took a sip of my overpriced water and ate overpriced ice cream an hour before I reach my destination. Despite my agility, I suffered from mental anguish and questioned my life choices every 30 minutes the entire time.
The long-haul flight finally touched down at Kingsford Smith Airport, which perhaps one of the world’s oldest continually operating airports. Ah, the feeling of the plane landing on the ground. Under my breath, I managed to tell myself that I am finally here in Sydney. I was excited to rush to the toilet to end my misery. I was almost hopping off my feet when it was my turn to walk out of the plane. Hurry up. My cousin is probably waiting for me outside already. Then I remembered, I haven’t seen him for 16 years. I am such a bad cousin. Did they (my whole clan) even care? Well, he wouldn’t be here to pick me up if he did.
This is my first time here. And as much as I want to act nonchalant, new arrival procedures are making me panic deep inside. I feel this whenever I am alone. I just felt so vulnerable. Despite my internal panic, as a law-abiding citizen of the world, I have no issues clearing Immigration and Security.
It only took me a few seconds to spot my long, lost, naturalized Aussie cousin. He has long hair, wearing short pants on an 11-degree weather, a thermal vest, and tinted eyeglasses. He took my luggage and asked me why I packed too many stuff for a 9-day visit. I have winter clothes! Great. Not even 5 minutes have passed, and we are already judging each other.
He promised to show me around during the weekend, and I am looking forward to that. Next thing to worry about is my friend who is coming from Manila, 24 hours after my arrival. This means I am forced to spend my time alone, in which I have already forgotten to do in strange cities. By the time we hit a curb, I wanted to barf.
Out of confusion, I forgot to ask my cousin to bring me to a grocery before he drops me off at the hotel. I needed my essentials – bottled water, chocolates, crisps. After going up, I went down again. I asked the receptionist if it is safe to go around here at night. He advised me not to go anywhere alone. Well, that was helpful.
I walked out and realized that the combination of nerves and the 8-degree weather is never good. But when I got inside Woolworths, I was fine. Groceries and supermarkets are my safety nets. I thrive to be immersed in culture by the things that I can buy from their local flagship stores. Within a few minutes, my basket is filled with food and drinks good for a week’s supply.
The following morning, I chose an organic café (as their signage claims to be) for brunch. I am not ashamed to order the matcha latte instead of their coffee. I was not frowned upon, but this ain’t Japan y’all. Little did I know that this would be the first of the few hot drinks that will be served to me in a short glass without any handles. And these drinks are hot.
When my friend finally arrived the following day, we got on with it. We explored their train and bus system, looked for a restaurant that was Instagram famous, went to the Opera House, did the two-hour cruise along Harbor Bay, and just feasted on the views, sounds and the very pleasant winter weather on our first official outing.
My friend added to the fun by catching her foot on a step and tripping in front of the staff who was selling the cruise tickets. She was not harmed, nor the ticketing staff. But I totally lost it. My friend took about 10 minutes to close the transaction for the tickets. That whole time, I didn’t stop laughing. The other girl at the counter was also laughing quietly at me. I was dying, you guys.
Our second day, we found ourselves being whisked away for a four-hour drive to Hunter Valley for our pre-arranged wine tasting tour. We heavily discussed a few days earlier not to go bat-shit crazy with the drinking, unless we want to seriously embarrass ourselves.
And of course, halfway thru the wine tasting, my good friend is already showing signs of lopsidedness on her hair flips and all. Dude, it was one in the afternoon. But nevertheless, we enjoyed the local produce and their warm sales pitches. I bought a bottle of one of the best tasting wine I’ve ever had and a few chocolate pieces. My friend bought three bottles of wine, bottles of flavored olive oils, and slabs of chocolate pieces. I was already calculating her excess luggage at the back of my mind. In between locations, we saw wild kangaroos. No close encounters, but enough for me to say that at least, I saw them.
The third day is a Saturday and we started the day at 5am. We were geared to drive up with my cousin for 6 hours all the way to the Snowy Mountains! We were already thinking of what to eat along the way, what to do upon reaching the site, and all the anticipation to play in the snow is hard to ignore! It’s not my first time in the snow, but I have never had experienced being in a snow resort that would allow you to enjoy fun snow activities.
Upon reaching the base, we needed to rent gears and hop on a train that would take us to the first station of the resort. I am already imagining the shots that we will take and all that stuff. But then, it was evident that the snowfall was quite heavy.
It only took us thirty minutes in the snowstorm, tobogganing as much as we can. But it was almost zero visibility that within a few, we have fresh 5 inches of snow, and it’s beginning to get wild. We decided to take shelter with everyone else and drink coffee and have a few snacks. Australia has pride in their own coffee industry. My friend tried ordering “brewed coffee”. The barista, borderline snapping, said “We don’t do brewed coffee here. We have espresso”. “We can make your coffee any way you like it, but not brewed. You can choose from the menu and if you need us to modify anything on it, let us know”. Well, okay. This guy has no chill. I believe we are both taking mental notes and try not to mention “brewed” again in this country.
When the snowfall eased up a bit, we went back out to the world and do the photo sessions with our tiny toys – birthday Legos and Finn and Jake. It was cute and yeah, anything for the Gram bandwagon. But the risk of getting frostbite is as real as it can get. In between shots, I was getting visions of death. It was an exaggeration of course but exposing your fingers at this negative degree weather complete with snow and all is whack. My cousin caught my eye, realizing that he is now covered in the snow wearing jeans. Yep. Blue denim. The one that you wear to the mall or anywhere but in the middle of a snowstorm. I had to analyze this part for a few seconds. Is it because he lived in this country for too long? Okay, you do you, boy. We stayed for maybe a total of 4 hours within the resort. Probably the highlight of our Sydney trip here because of all the craziness combined. We managed to go back to the city safe and sound.
Next day was more relaxing – going to the Olympic village, a few outlet shops, and the legendary Bondi beach. We were freezing to death just by walking along shore despite the layers, and we couldn’t shudder more while we watch a few locals attempting to surf and just enjoy the water in winter.
The following days were reserved for mall hopping, finding souvenirs, eating up some more (Sydney Fish Market woot-woot), drinking more mocha for me, eating pancakes, and just basically walking in circles and buying stuff (Tim Tam hoarding) in Coles and Woolworths.
Then, it was time for me to go. My friend was set to travel out to the Gold Coast for the rest of her vacation. To travel in more than one city during winter is not as appealing to me. Time and age are not on my side. And I was fine with it. The point is, I already tried a few things out of my comfort zone already on this trip. And despite my hesitations beforehand, I get to tick another destination off my bucket list.
I booked a shuttle going to the airport, which only has two passengers for this schedule. While stuck in the jam, the driver then asked us what our best memories of Sydney were. The guy before me launched into a complete narrative of his experience. The driver has shown pure interest and to my surprise, was very engaging, without being pushy. I guess it was my turn when he asked, “how about you, girl?”.
My face easily gives me away whenever I am spaced out. I just said oh, I love the cold weather here. He seems to know that I will not go beyond that. He gave me a satisfied nod, and just cranked up the volume of his radio and sang along with it.
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Travel Guru Stories – Trip to Sydney