Friday, December 17, 2004

Caught the 0924 back to Sydney. The trip took a little more than 2 hours to arrive because of the morning congestion at Central Station. The train operator kept giving us periodic updates on the ETA while registering his own impatience with the system.

The Vulcan upgraded our room to a very modern furnished one. 202 even has a working fireplace, though this being summer, it's too hot to light it. Besides, it'll play havoc with the air-conditioning.

Today we spent most of our time hopping the Explorer bus and using the 1st day of our 3-day pass as much as we could.

On Friday, Paddy's Market opens for business, so we headed out there and saw... a big pasar malam, manned and operated mostly by more Asian folk. Hence, the merchandise was nothing unusual to us. Clothes, toys, stuff. After a short prowl we gave up and crossed the street into Chinatown...

... where we ordered a char siew fan, a siew ngap fan, and a soi gow tong from a Hongkonger run restaurant. Same thing: high prices, humongous portions. June and I were slack-jawed for a second then worked our way slowly through what looked like half a roast duck, a large fraction of roast pig, a vegetable side, and a number of huge dumplings stuffed with fresh prawns, minced meat and black fungus. Oh, for cheaper meals and smaller portions.

Then back on the Explorer to Argyle place to take pictures at Garrison Church, Explorer to Campbell's Cove to take pictures of Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, Explorer to take pictures at the magnificent St Mary's Cathedral and surroundings, and a short walk to the Hard Rock Cafe where the t-shirts cost much less than the ones in Surfers'.

The Explorer bus is a lot of fun, particularly when the driver turns off the canned "tourist info" recording and launches into his own politically incorrect commentary on local politics, Sydney landmarks, famous Australians, and occasionally pointing out the more attractive female passers by whom we might otherwise have missed seeing.

At Circular Quay we had a change of driver. The new guy took over wearing a Father Christmas costume complete with fake beard and sunglasses. He distributed candy to the lone kid seated in the 5th row before driving on. Sydney -- lots of elderly folk, few kids.

Whoever designed Sydney must have been a conglomeration of artists and other people with an eye for the visually stunning. I love the designs that blend the old with the new, the geometric with the organic, the blending of different tastes from different times. What a fun place!

We saw the Giant Christmas tree in Martin Place and we marvelled at the splendour of the Westin occupying No. 1 Martin Place, a Colonial GPO building that the GPO is still operating out of. The Fullerton must have borrowed the idea from here.

We found an Internet cafe opposite Central Station for me to update quidestveritas while June scouted ahead for other attractions. The cafe is run by a PRC and the other patrons are likewise mostly Chinese playing Chinese online games. We've certainly reached far and wide.

June spotted a Harry's Cafe de Wheels at the Capitol and we went to sample their world famous meat pie. We were too late. All the pies had already been sold out and they were closing in 10 minutes. We had to settle for the only thing they had left, a hot dog, but what a dog! A bun filled with a scoop of mashed potatoes, a scoop of mashed peas, a scoop of Mexican chilli con carne, a large sausage topped generously with ketchup, mustard and hot sauce. Everything was spilling out into the paper tray it came in, so the counter dude gave us a fork to eat it with.

The hot dog was just and appetizer. Tomorrow we're off to Harry's main branch early to get us a pie! Count on it!

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