Australia — (Sydney, Hobart, and Melbourne) (Dec. 2018)

  • Sydney: QVB, “I’m Free” Walking Tour, ferry to Manly Island, Library inside Customs House, The Rock (to sample some BBQ Kangaroo), and dinner at Din Tai Fung.
  • The Sydney Opera House is more an entertainment centre containing several performing spaces. it was budgeted at $7 million and construction was scheduled to be completed in 4 years. Instead, it cost $102 million and took 14 years. 
    Wikipedia has a good article if you would like to learn more:
  • Just finished an informative tour of the Sydney Opera House. I purchased a combined ticket hoping for a relaxing dinner before the 8 o’clock show. Having some fish and chips at the Opera Bar now. However, I have to shout my order to the bartender because even the spot furthest away from the speakers has a noise level of 80+dB. Oh, there are also thousands of people here.
  • If you have been waiting for my visit to a local library, you should be as awestruck as I when I stepped into the Mitchell Building of the NSW State Library. In addition to a stunning Reading Room, it has a rich display of artifacts. 
    I also learned today that Australia interned the Germans during WWII. Not sure about if the Japanese suffered the same fate. I need to do some research.
  • Sydney self-walking tour: ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park, Great Synagogue of Sydney, Hyde Park, State Library of NSW, State House, Botanical Garden, and Sydney Opera House
  • Spending most of the day hiking in the Blue Mountains and visiting neighboring towns.
  • My Airbnb host recommended a Shanghai restaurant in the neighbourhood. I didn’t realize there are four adjacent restaurants that have similar names. I picked Nee Shanghai because it had the biggest crowd.  The food was delicious!
  •  A coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Clovelly Beach. I had planned to go further but it started to rain.  I strolled past took several beaches, saw some dramatic rock formations, visited a lawn bowling club, and walked through a cemetery
  • One of the reasons I ventured to the furthest south I have ever been is because of an Australian author: C. J. Koch. His best-known novel “Year of Living Dangerously” was adapted into a movie and Linda Hunt won an Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress for her role as the male dwarf Billy Kwan. I have re-read the novel several times and it’s one of my all-time favorites because of Koch’s skillful evocation of places and exploration of the idea of loyalty and morality.  Koch was born in Hobart and one of his novels “Doublemen” is set in Tasmania. He died of cancer in Hobart in 2013. When I was in Blue Mountains two days ago, I picked up his book of essays: “Closing the Gap” at a used bookstore.
  • Hobart. A walk from my Airbnb in the historic Salamanca District to the pier and the cenotaph and ended the evening with a spicy dinner at a Nepalese restaurant.
  • Walking tour of Hobart; it turned out to be a private tour since I was the only person who signed up. I learned about the rich history of the city: from convicts (some as young as 10) who built the town, to the once thriving whaling industry, and the jams making factories. Many of the convicts had committed debt related, non-violent crimes. The journey from England took about 5 months. Interesting fact that I didn’t know was some convicts were shipped from Canada and the United States.
  • Had a late breakfast with a former WO student who married a Tasmanian. Then spent the afternoon at a most interesting museum (MONA). Museum of Old and New Art is the largest privately funded museum in the Southern Hemisphere and it was founded by David Walsh, a Tasmanian millionaire. The collection and how they are displayed are certainly interesting. The theme of death, bodily functions, patterns, and communication seems to run through most of the artifacts.
  • Several of the displays from MONA that I really enjoy. 
  • More from MONA: I know some of Madonna songs but I wouldn’t say I’m a fan. It’s mesmerizing to watch 30 people who know all the words of her songs. They want their hearts out and seemed to have a connection with the artist herself.
  • My favorite from MONA
  • A magnificent space: The La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria.
  • Melbourne.  After taking flight #4 from Hobart to Melbourne, spent a few hours with the “I’m Free Walking Tour”. We were caught in a torrential rainfall just before the end of the walk. Even though I was completely soaked, luckily I was only a block from my Airbnb.
  • Spent a couple hours at the magnificent State Library of Victoria. Lunch with another former student who happens to be visiting Melbourne. Then spent some time at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). The Gallery has an extensive collection. A number of aborigines works are dreams related. The colonial collection illustrates aptly the world of difference between the Europeans and the natives.
  • I attended a traditional service of carols and lessons at the St. Paul’s Cathedral. When I entered the church, a colourful structure stood near the back of the nave. With a blinking light near its top, I thought it was too modern and out of place. Actually, I thought it was ugly. During the homily, the Dean of the Cathedral explained that the object is a Christmas tree and its material consisted of the life jackets of the Syrian Children who risked their lives in the rough sea to escape the war in their homelands. The artwork is called “Not A Creature was Stirring
    This revelation, of course, made me realized it’s unwise to make a rash judgment. In fact, it reminded of a reporter saying: “No parents will ever put their children on a refugee boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea unless they have no other choice.”
  • Alexandra Gardens and King’s Domain in Melbourne.
  • The Shrine of Remembrance,  Melbourne. Until the end of WWII, Australia has been involved in a number of wars and conflicts but it fought under the banner of the British Empire. After WWII, Australia continues to play a role in a number of battles and peacekeeping efforts. However, it represents itself as a sovereign nation. 
    The Shrine of Remembrance was erected in 1934 to honour the men and women who served in WWI. Since then, it had been expanded to include all Australians who served in a war.
  • Crazy right turn.  One of the reasons that I rarely rent a car when I’m travelling is because there are often some strange rules that would really confuse me. For example, in certain intersections in Melbourne, you have to keep on the far left lane if you want to make a right turn. (don’t forget, they drive in the opposite side. So, it’s like keeping in the far right lane in Canada to make a left turn). Yes, you do have to wait for all clear but it’s hard to process that if you are witnessing it for the first time. The reason for this maneuver is to keep the middle of the intersection clear.  This is an example of how it works.
  • Melbourne $10 for a haircut. Even though there’s a queue, it didn’t take long. What a deal.