Jan 20, 2013

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Sydney in 4 days

Last year I made my first ever trip to Australia. I’ve travelled to a few places yet I’d never taken the time to visit our closest neighbour and say G’day, despite it being so close and cheap to fly. After visiting I can certainly see the appeal, but I didn’t visit Sydney to see the city, I went to see Matt & Jenna (and Nathan), Sam and Jess & Sheldon – friends who have sadly left NZ and taken up various jobs in the most populated city in Australia[1].

Matt & Jenna had been offering to host me since they moved over and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I got a cheap ticket by using Wenza and decided to take on the 7kg challenge[2] and only travel with a carry on bag. I sacrificed my laptop but I had everything I needed plus some room to take over kiwi snacks. Unfortunately, a 7am flight meant a 5am check in, so I was very tired.

Day 1

189388_10151064775807190_1380983254_nI was picked up at Sydney airport by Matt & Jenna, got a Vodafone SIM for the time I’d be there and went back to their place. After planning out our itinerary for the next couple of days I promptly crashed and slept for a couple of hours. When I came back to feeling human there were sandwiches waiting for me in the kitchen. This was just the start of how well I was looked after on this trip, Matt & Jenna’s hospitality is second to none. After eating we headed out into the city.

We visited Chinatown.

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Saw the fireworks.

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And took in a show.

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Day 2

We visited Paddy’s Market.

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We got this close to being in a submarine, but it was closed for the day.

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Not all was lost. I found Sam and he found beer.

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Then we saw Batman in IMAX – way better than any 3D I’ve seen.

Day 3

We took the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay.

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I posed like the tourist I was on the Harbour bridge.

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We saw a plane that had been cut up and sent by postal mail to the US and back.

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We tried out Matt’s camera remote to great success.

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And before the delicious steak BBQ in the evening, we even managed to see this view.

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Day 4

We visited the zoo and saw animals that entertained.

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Animals that took my money.

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Animals I’m glad NZ doesn’t have.

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Animals that were very cute.

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And we worked on Kiwi[3] & Aussie relations.

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We packed heaps into the 4 days and I enjoyed myself so much I know I’ll be back. I have way too many photos and memories for a single blog post, but I’ll leave you with these suggestions:

  • Travel light: Carry less weight, pay less to check a bag, spend less time packing and waiting for bags
  • Stay with friends: Not only do you get to see your friends, you also get a place to sleep
  • Plan rest: Don’t exhaust yourself trying to do everything on your list, it’ll keep
  • Pick the cooler months: Sydney can get incredibly hot and uncomfortable for exploring if you go in the middle of summer
  • Be sure to see: Darling Harbour, Chinatown, Maritime Museum, “The Local” bar (and get a tasting paddle) and the Museum of Contemporary Art

Footnotes

[1] To give that a bit of perspective, the population of New Zealand is roughly the same size as the population of Sydney (including suburbs).

[2] My backpack weighed in at 6.7kg (the scale wasn’t calibrated properly) but because you can also take a “small personal item such as a handbag” in addition to your 7kg allowance my SLR camera and bag travel too.

[3] Kiwi is my travelling companion, he has visited Hawaii, Philippines and Australia with me, sneaking into photos along the way.

Dec 29, 2011

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Ni hao from China

So I’ve been in China for just over a week playing tourist/photographer all around Changshu and the surrounding towns. Changshu is about two hours drive from Shanghai and has a small (by Chinese standards) population of about 1 million. It’s quite a prosperous city because it’s close enough to such an economic hub as Shanghai but far enough that it’s not part of the city, so it’s cleaner and less populated.

 

Coming back to China has been an experience, as you’d expect. Chinese culture is very different from Western – the country is vast, old and is a huge player in the world economy. Coming from New Zealand, a very young nation, it’s humbling to see how old some of the buildings here are. It makes me wish I’d paid more attention to history when I lived in the UK too.

The biggest challenge has been language again. I’m very glad that the phrases I learned last time are still there, so I didn’t have to relearn them, I just need to build up new ones. So far the most useful has been “I don’t want that, thank you” and “How much is that?” I need to learn the numbers, but pulling out my phone and typing the numbers in (or them pulling out a calculator) works well too. I’ve downloaded Pleco and a paid add-on that has how to pronounce each word, which is helping a bit too.

 

I haven’t had a big culture shock this time (yet). My time on the photogenX DTS in 2010 covered lots of things including how diverse cultures are and how our world view is shaped by our own culture. I got to put this knowledge to work in Philippines and again in the USA before I came back to the safety of New Zealand. With all this in mind it’s been easier to accept that things around me will seem weird to me (like the food, the protocol, the huge level of hospitality we’ve had here, the fact people want to carry my breakfast plate for me, etc.), but not to others and to be willing to give it a try. This may have got me in a bit of trouble at one point, but we learn from our mistakes.

Our group has been getting along well. We’ve had the usual adjustments any random group of people has traveling, but I must say it’s much nicer to travel with a larger group than a smaller one. There are about 16 kiwis here who came for Neil & Rose’s Chinese wedding yesterday (us + his family) – eventually we’ll be down to 6 traveling around. About 600 people came to the wedding,  which is the first overseas wedding I’ve been to. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but in the end the ceremony was quite short, but full of entertainment. We went around each table and the couple and their families toasted each table (10 people per table = 60 tables).  The ceremony was short (5pm welcoming, 5:45pm start, 8pm finish), but well received. Eddie and Neil made speeches in Chinese and we all cleaned up rather nicely in suits and dresses. Of course, after all that I can’t not show you a couple of photos can I? I haven’t even started editing these ones yet – wait there a second…

That’s all I have time for now, thanks for reading. If you’re keen for more – I update Facebook when I can and I’m uploading more photos to my photo page on flickr after they’re edited. I’ll be making up a photo show when I get back to NZ with more fun shots and stories too. Until then :)