It’s a city that caters to various tastes. Shuib Taib has a great time experiencing Sydney’s many offerings
THERE are so many different facets to Australia. Take Sydney for instance. If the Opera House and Sydney Harbour bridge offer visitors a chance to be in awe of its architecture, Bondi and Manly are the beaches to go to for fun, sun, sand and sea.
Art lovers will love the fact that there are so many art galleries and if your timing is perfect, you can even catch an international show, like the opera musical La Traviata where it is done al fresco and on such a large scale, it will blow your mind.
Food connoisseurs will have a field day as Sydney has an array of top hat restaurants to choose from. Families with children will appreciate places like Taronga Zoo and the annual Sydney Easter show where you can get up close with the animals.
It will be a shame to go to Australia, which is famous for its outback and not to have a chance to see it. Well, if nature is your thing, the Blue Mountains area will not make you feel so, errr... blue.
Aside from animals, what I like about Taronga Zoo is its location. The zoo sits on an elevated piece of land along the waterfront, so it provides a vantage view of Sydney Harbour. The way there is along a zigzag path and, as you make your way up, you can enjoy its magnificent view.
Although you can drive to Taronga, most people prefer to take the 12-minute ferry ride from Wharf 2, Circular Quay. The zoo has its own jetty and as soon as you step out of the ferry, you can walk to the zoo.
For a change, have dinner on a showboat. While enjoying the meal, the luxurious cruise takes you around Sydney harbour. After dinner, look forward to the entertainment which is a mixed bag of songs and dances, done a la Moulin Rouge, Vegas and Bollywood.
ROYAL EASTER SHOW
Held in April, the Sydney Royal Easter Show showcases the best in Australian agriculture including homegrown produce and prize-winning animals.
Established 190 years ago, it is Australia’s biggest annual event that brings together 14,000 animals, the biggest carnival in the southern hemisphere, 300 showbags (themed bags of gadgets, merchandises, lollies and treats), 160 food outlets and more than 900,000 visitors.
The carnival has two precincts — one dedicated to older thrill-seekers and the other for families with young children.
Since this is predominantly a farm thing, the animal pavilion is one of the must-see items.
Among the favourites are wood-chopping and sawing competitions. Beefy men with rippling muscles take centre stage to see who is the strongest and the fastest. Expectedly, the crowd cheer for competitors from New South Wales, most of whom rise to the occasion and make the finals.
DOING THE MANLY THING
Wow! What a surprise to see a group of Harley Davidson bikers outside our hotel. The best part is, they are here for us. Thanks to Tourism New South Wales, today we are travelling on a Harley. Yeeha! As a pillion rider, I sit astride a Harley belonging to a guy who wants to be known only as Gillard.
As we cruise along, Gillard tells me that he has three Harleys in his collection. He and friends often travel over 100km (one way) just to have lunch. “But of course we don’t do that every day. Once or twice a week,” he hollers through the air.
We ride pass some of the most beautiful residential areas in Sydney along Grand Pacific Drive. Because ours is a pretty large group, the Harleys, which emanate a mean kind of sound on the road, attract everyone we pass.
Before I could say Harley Davidson, we are at Manly Beach where I am about to go surfing for the first time.
SURFING IS FUN BUT ...
Swimming costumes have a way of making me feel a certain way. Once we slip into our proper surfing gear, I feel like the man from Atlantis.
The board is heavy and as a surfer, you must drag your own board. Before we make our first try, our trainer gives us a few pointers on how it is done.
Start by lying down on the board with both hands on each side. Slowly paddle with your hands while maintaining balance. As soon as you see a big wave coming your way from behind, prepare to stand on the board.
When standing on the board, your best leg should be behind and the other in front. When the surf board is stable, you must get up slowly. We repeat this routine several times until the trainer is satisfied. Then we head down to the water where disasters happen.
Surfing, as it turns out, is easier said than done. Once you are in the water, everything seems doubly heavier.
My first try is a flop. As soon as I stand, I tumble into the water! And so do my third try, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. At one point, as I carry the surf board into the slightly deeper part of the sea, the oncoming wave is so strong that it hits the surfboard which, in turn, smacks into my Adam’s apple. Triple ouch! For the next few days, I sound rough and throaty.
I have lost count of how many times I have fallen into the rough sea but when I finally manage to stand and surf, it feels so good! With a few more lessons, I’m sure I can be a decent surfer. For now though, I need to regain my voice.
On weekends, Sydneysiders who want a quick break from the city will head for Blue Mountains, an ideal romantic getaway or family escape. The journey takes about an hour (one way) but our driver stops at Bennett Ridge for a quick picnic.
At Blue Mountains, we take a scenic tour on the steepest funicular railway in the world at Katoomba. The view of the mountain terrain is just amazing. Australia’s highest waterfall (300m) called Bridal Veil Falls is right in front of me.
We then take Australia’s steepest cable way called Flyway to check out The Three Sisters, a unique rock formation that resembles three people.
The highlight of the trip has to be meeting Australian aborigines who put up a true blue native aboriginal dance that gets us all enamoured. They give us each a friendship band, teach us simple words like “kujagamunda” (which means snake) and perform a tribal dance much to our amusement.