Sunday, April 09, 2006


We enjoyed our two weeks in Australia. We spent time in Perth and Sydney. I have a million pictures so if you want to see more of anything let me know. Feel free to read about our trip or to just enjoy the pics.

Perth is absolutely beautiful. Each time I go out I am amazed by its beauty. The sky is so blue and the grass and trees so green. The palm trees are great too. I just love palm trees. To me they make a place seem more exotic. Perth is close to the Indian Ocean and has a great river (Swan River). The water is so clean. Even though it has been cooler than when we were in Bangkok, the sun seems more intense. I don’t like wearing hats, but I kept mine on and was grateful for the protection it provided.

I keep trying to figure out what Perth reminds me of. In some ways it is like the past. I mean this in a good way. It seems more laid back and casual. Traffic doesn’t seem bad, people are polite, and even the city center has a quaint feel to it. It’s clean and relatively quiet. Except for the weekends, shops close early.

Riding the free CAT buses around town is a good way to get a feel for the city and where things are. Well, I guess it helped me get a feel for the city, but I have no sense of direction and could probably get lost crossing the street.

Luckily it seemed to help Rob know where everything is. I knew I brought him with for a reason. J We spent some time sitting on the grass by the Swan River just reading, resting, and looking around. We watched people, birds, and boats.
Fremantle is about a 30 minute train ride from Perth. Because the Swan River is so beautiful, we decided to take a ferry over. It takes longer, and is more expensive, but we figured it would be more enjoyable. Maybe it would have been if Mr. Commentator could keep his mouth closed. Not only did he feel the need to speak almost non-stop, but he felt the need to do it loudly with the microphone practically in his mouth. And his accent did not help! Most of the time I had no idea what he was saying. When I could understand him I usually was not interested. There were some nice views along the way though.

Once in Fremantle we found a Mexican restaurant. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Since we can’t get Mexican food where we live in China, we enjoy it when we can find it. We were riding

on the free CAT bus when we saw a gorgeous beach and decided to get off for awhile. The Indian Ocean was so clean and looked green or blue depending on the angle. We walked around a bit and waded into the water a little. It was so perfect that it looked like a painting.

After the beach we headed on to the prison. The prison tour is one of the big tourist attractions in the area. It was built by convicts that were sent over from England and used clear until 1991! From station and took the train back to Perth. Faster, cheaper, and quieter than the ferry, though not quite as pretty.

King’s Park and botanical garden was on my list of places to see. It was a short walk from our hotel, though unfortunately an uphill walk. I am old or out of shape or something. Let’s blame it on the intense sun. I was not surprised to find that the park was absolutely gorgeous. A picnic lunch in the shade was a nice way to take a break from walking around.

Perth Zoo, though not very large, was quite enjoyable. The habitats seemed well set up and I enjoyed walking around the various areas almost as much as seeing the actual animals. The design allowed us to get close to many of the animals. In some places we were able to walk through the habitats, providing that we stayed to the path.

Many of the animals were cooperative, and I think I got pretty good pictures of the penguins and the orangutans. They were fun to watch and since it wasn’t crowded we had a great view for as long as we wanted.

Kangaroos aren’t nearly as cute in real life as their animated likenesses. They are pretty lazy things too. Do they really think that I want to watch them sleeping? They kind of look like large, deformed rats. I managed to get a couple of pictures though. Even though they aren’t soft and cute like stuffed animals, they were interesting to watch and I enjoyed the chance to be so close to them.

The koalas were cuter, but even less cooperative. Refused to pose for me and continuously placed themselves so that leaves and branches blocked any clear shots of them.

Needing a day without so much sun, we opted for museums. The Western Australia Museum gets my seal of approval. Admission is a suggested donation of $2 Australian. Quite a deal. It was almost empty so we were able to move through the exhibits at our own pace without getting slowed down or feeling rushed. The Aboriginal exhibits were particularly interesting to me. We took a break for lunch and then went to the Western Australia Art Museum. We didn’t spend as long there. It didn’t impress me much. I found the building it was in more interesting than a lot of the art. It was free, so I guess the price was right.

Friday meant beach day. We took a bus to City Beach. Since it is the end of March and summer is almost over, there weren’t a lot of people at the beach. It was a fairly quiet and laid back day. I read and slept. Got into the water a little bit, and played with the sand and shells.

Saturday was take it easy day. We walked through the London Court Arcade and then over to a store that had Aboriginal art. We walked around a little and just enjoyed the time we had left in the city. We got back to the hotel early to do some laundry, pack, and watch a little TV.

Sunday meant travel. We left Perth and went on to Sydney. Going east, we lost a couple of hours. The flight was already like four hours, so by the time you have airport travel, wait time, flight time, and lost time, that makes the day. We got to our hotel and wandered out to find something to eat. We found a small Italian place that mostly does take out, but has a little section for dining. We had lasagna and garlic bread. Pretty good for such a little out of the way place.

Monday was a day to get our bearings. We walked over to Darling Harbor and visited a visitor’s center and wandered around the harbor. It reminds me of Baltimore in a lot of ways. We bought See Sydney passes good for 2 days. Purchasing the See Sydney passes allow you to visit various popular attractions without additional cost. The two day pass cost us $119 each (Australian dollars, so about $90 US each). I will put the cost of things we do with the card in parenthesis throughout the blog so you can get an idea of attraction cost and card value.

On to the Maritime Museum. It’s free! I was more impressed with it than I thought I would be. It had the basic boat and other maritime stuff, but it also had information about the people who came over to Australia via ship and the native Aborigines they encountered. The temporary exhibit was about Vikings. Now that is interesting. We definitely got lucky with that one. We didn’t go onto the boats you have to pay to board as we can do that later with our See Sydney passes. We walked on to the area known as The Rocks and saw the museum about the area. We walked around under the Sydney Bridge and then started back towards our hotel. We stopped in at Krispy Kreme to buy some doughnuts. We have missed those in China! For dinner we settled on The Hard Rock CafĂ©. It was glorious, familiar food. Australia has a lot of seafood (yuck!) and Chinese food (which I can get in China!).

We had our game plan and were ready to go on Tuesday! Our See Sydney cards are activated from the first time we use them. I am going to give approximate adult prices (in Australian dollars) to give an idea of cost. We plan on getting our money’s worth out of the passes. We went to the Sydney Tower ($24), which is high above all the other buildings. It offers a great view of Sydney and I took lots of pictures as I walked around the deck. Admission also includes OzTrek, a moving seat movie about Australia. It is an experience that can be missed, though I am sure children up to about 12 think it is really cool. It might have been better if the movement was related to the movie, but they really had to stretch to find a reason to jerk your seats.

After the tower and OzTrek we grabbed a bit of lunch and walked to the Maritime Museum again. This time we went onto the Destroyer Vampire and the Submarine something or other ($10). I didn’t find it very interesting. Been on one old war boat, don’t need to go on any more. Ditto for submarines. I think it was probably fine if you are into that. You can go buy yourself, take an audio tour, or go on a tour led by a volunteer.

Time for the boat ride ($60)! This was definitely the highlight of the day. The boat was fast and fun. We got to see some good sites and the ride was awesome. The weather was perfect. It felt good to get wet and cool off a little.
On to the Powerhouse Museum ($10). I am not sure what it is supposed to be about, but neither of us was impressed. The best thing about the museum was being able to check our e-mail for free at an internet exhibit. Oh, and they had a pay phone so I was able to reconfirm our flights to Korea and back to China. Don’t recommend it.

Last for the day was the aquarium ($27). It is alright. There are glass tunnels underwater so you get to see things swimming around you on both sides and above. The sharks were particularly interesting to watch. It is a fairly small aquarium. Unless you really like watching sharks I would say skip it and go to an aquarium somewhere else. It wasn’t crowded though, and what they had was nice.

Pretty beat by then. We grabbed some pizza to take back with us to the hotel. We went to the same place we had eaten on Sunday. It was packed! People eating in, people making orders, people picking up phone in orders… Pizza was great. I can see why it is a busy place.
Wednesday was day 2 for our pass. We went down to Circular Quay and took a nice leisurely 1 hour cruise ($25). We sat on top of the boat and enjoyed the view along the way. We got tickets for a Blue Mountains tour scheduled on Thursday before heading to the ferry. The ferry is a short 12 minute ride across to the zoo ($30). Upon arrival, we chose to take the cable car up to the top entrance of the zoo. The zoo has a great location and offers many opportunities to view the city in between seeing the animals. Not the biggest zoo I have ever seen, but pretty decent.

I was impressed with the lions, tigers, and spider monkeys. They were actually moving around and practically begging to be photographed.
We took the ferry back to Circular Quay and decided to bag the Opera House tour. I am not sure what about it takes an hour to see. I don’t want to hear about the contest, design winner, etc. any more than I already have. I don’t care to have a close up view of the foyers, stages, etc. It is supposed to be a popular attraction, but the outside was enough for us. Instead we found a shady spot so we could sit in the Botanical Gardens. We got to watch the things happening on the water and were entertained by some kids playing nearby. As sunset drew near, we decided to walk over to the Sydney Tower again and see the view at sunset and after dark. (We skipped the OzTrek movie this time!) It was nice, but I preferred the day view. Day view provides good photo ops and better orientation of the surroundings. For dinner we ended up back at Macleay’s Pizza (on Macleay Street in Potts Point). Obviously it has become a favorite. I wouldn’t mind having yet another meal from Macleay’s before we leave.