Sunday, April 28, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 5 of 21) - Surfing on the Australian Waves

On the road to Manly Beach
          Boxing Day or the day after Christmas is considered a holiday in Australia.  It would actually be my first time to "celebrate" it since such holiday is not observed in the Philippines.  As it was looking to be a hot day, Tita A and Tito Bru thought it may be a good idea for us to go to Manly Beach. As far as I can remember, I haven't been to any of the beaches in Australia since it was nearing winter when I first traveled to this country.  So I was more than happy to have the chance to finally visit one.
           Manly Beach was around a 30-40 minute drive from my aunt's place.  However, if you would be coming from the city, you could opt to take a ferry, which takes around 30 minutes as well, or you can also travel by bus.  It's actually pretty accessible and popular to both locals and tourists.  Its name was said to come from the "confidence and 'manly behavior' displayed by a group of local aborigines" sited by Captain Arthur Phillip way back in 1788.  There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops in the area.    In case you would want to stay overnight, there are also hotels, guesthouses, and serviced apartments available. For sure, you wouldn't get bored staying in Manly Beach because there are a lot of activities to choose from.  You can go kayaking, biking, whale watching (only if in season which is from Mid-May to November), diving, sailing, and of course, surfing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 4 of 21) - Christmas in Sydney

Can you spot what's different with our tree?
         Out of all the holidays in a year, my most favorite to celebrate is the Christmas season.  It's the time for parties, joyful reunions, gift-giving, and of course, celebrating the birth of Jesus.  As mentioned in one of my previous posts, as early as September, you can already hear Christmas carols being played over the radio and Christmas lanterns being sold along the streets in the Philippines.  We also have these dawn masses or more commonly known as "Misa de Gallo" or "Simbang Gabi" in Filipino. These masses are normally celebrated around 4-4:30 in the early morning, and start at the 16th of December and ends at the 24th.  Some say that if you complete the nine masses and make a wish, that wish would come true.  As for me, I still haven't been able to complete a "Simbang Gabi" as I have a tendency to sleep-in especially with the colder weather during December.  Filipino delicacies such as "puto-bungbong" and "bibingka" are also usually sold near the churches.  Christmas trees adorned with multi-colored Christmas lights could also be found not only in homes but also in office buildings, shopping malls, and city halls.  Calendars are also easily filled as Christmas parties and annual reunions are held once the month of December kicks in.  Fortunately for me, I was still able to attend the Christmas parties and reunions with officemates and friends before I had to leave for my trip to Australia.  However, one thing I did miss was celebrating "Noche Buena", which is a traditional Christmas feast held every Christmas Eve with one's family.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 3 of 21) - Sydney City Tour

      Day three was one of my earliest start in my whole stay in Australia.  By 6:30 AM, Sydney time, I was up and about, getting ready to go to the city with my aunt.  My aunt works at Commonwealth Bank, which was located very near Darling Harbour. Though it was already December 24 at that time, it was still a workday for her. And since I didn't want to waste my day, I decided to go with her and just explore the city by myself.
      Tito Bru dropped us off to the nearest train station, which was Mount Druitt at around 7:30 AM.  We purchased one-way tickets and proceeded to wait for our train.  According to my aunt, there were fast trains and slow trains.  Fast trains are those that did not have a lot of stops, thus bringing you to your destination at an earlier time, while slow trains are of course, its opposite.  I think we got to ride on a slow train but it worked perfectly for me because I was able to get some snooze time.  Our train was one of the older ones as there was no air condition yet.  But since it was still early, the weather wasn't very hot to be considered as uncomfortable.  What fascinated me with our train was that the seats could be manually arranged by the rider to face on one side to another, depending on his preference. So for those passengers who would want to be seated face to face, they would only need to turn this lever/contraption on their seats.  Similarly, if you're alone and wouldn't want to be facing any strangers, the same contraption could be used.  It was almost 9 AM when we arrived at the Town Hall Station, which was just a walking distance from my aunt's workplace.  But before going to work, my aunt went with me to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)  to treat me for some breakfast.  

      The QVB is of "romanesque architecture" and was first opened in 1898.  Over time, it has undergone plenty of renovations to restore to its original beauty.  It now houses plenty of shopping stores, restaurants, and cafes making it a must-stop for Sydney tourists.  They offer free-wifi and normally operates from 9 AM to 6 PM except for Thursdays, in which they extend till 9 PM. Shops found in the QVB range from middle to high-end.

QVB from the outside
      For breakfast, I had some waffles (with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, bananas, and chocolate syrup!! hello calories!], and of course, some very good hot chocolate with a big squishy marshmallow on top. Once I activated the local sim that I bought, my aunt left me to my own devices.

Another sinful breakfast

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 2 of 21) - Souvenirs, Tea and Christmas Lights

Welcome to Parklea Markets
     My day two agenda involved visiting the Parklea Markets.  Apparently, it was only open on the
weekends and public holidays.  It opens at 8:30 AM and closes by 4:30 PM. It has numerous stalls that offer a wide range of products such as food, clothing, toys, gardening tools, accessories, and many more.  According to my aunt, it would also be a good place to buy souvenirs for my family and friends back in the Philippines.  Plus, I could even start a bit of shopping there. Though I still had plenty of time, it would be good for me to cross out as early as possible some of the things in my "to-do-list".   This way, I would have one less thing to worry about.  But first, a good breakfast [actually it was already brunch given the time that I woke up] was definitely in order.  Mushrooms, bacon, egg, bread, and of course, some hot chocolate with marshmallows on top, comprised my meal.  Once done, we headed out immediately to get on with our day.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 1 of 21) - Hearty breakfast, seagulls and warm welcome

Better grab this one! With free discount coupons
       The Sydney Airport seemed to be jam-packed on that early Saturday morning of my arrival.  There were just so many people that even if our flight was earlier than expected, the long lines in the immigration counters still managed to cause delay.  Along the way, I spotted a Sydney travel guide, which I immediately took hold of. It was definitely useful as it even had coupons entitling you to discounts on Sydney's famous tourist spots.  So if you see them on your own travel, better grab one.  On a side note, I spotted two local celebrities - Ogie Alcacid and Regine Velasquez who were apparently on the same flight as I was.  They were travelling with their child and with no helper/bodyguard along since Ogie was the one retrieving their luggage.  I tried to snap a picture or two, but it was too blurry to keep.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Australian Adventure (Day 0 of 21) - Solo Travel

Travelling to another country all by myself was a definite first for me.  Normally, whenever I would go out of the country, I would usually be with my family or my friends.  But this time, I was on my own.

                Looking back, I believe it was a good experience for me and I think everyone should try it at least once in their lives.  It was actually more of a trial for me, since when I got to Sydney, my aunt was there to welcome me. Maybe next time, I’ll be able to try visiting another country by myself, with no relatives or friends that I know of.

View from my seat in the waiting area
                So anyway, since my flight was on a Friday night, I was actually coming from the office.  Luckily, my client meeting ended up just on time so I didn't have to worry about the traffic and being late.  My cousin was the one who drove me to NAIA Terminal 2 and we arrived there at around 5:30 PM.  We actually took a bit of a detour first because I had to pick up my newest "toy" so I could take it with me in my vacation.  Given that I had enough time,  I was able to remove some of my clothes from my luggage as I might have over packed a bit.  I had a free baggage allowance of 23 kg, and since I would definitely be bringing more when I return, I though it would be better to be on the safe side.

                The airport wasn't very crowded when I arrived, so I didn't encounter any problems checking in.  I also got a cart for my luggage since I also had my work laptop with me. There were no queues yet so I was able to check in easily.  However, one problem I encountered was that when I had to go to the restroom, I had to bring all my stuff with me since I couldn't leave it with some stranger.  Fortunately, the cubicles were big enough to bring in the trolley while I do my business.  

                The next difficulty I faced was filling up the immigration form.  Not that I didn't know what to put, but it’s just that I couldn't seem to find my pen.  I've tried taking out all my stuff from my bag, but I still couldn't find it.  There were no pens available in the counters so I had to borrow from one of the attendants.  Since I was able to finish early the pre-boarding procedures, I had some time to relax and even charge my gadgets at the airport.  There was also free wifi so I managed to facetime with my aunt in Sydney.  The next thing I know, we were already being called for boarding. 

               The ticket I paid for allowed me to choose the seat beforehand.  Since I was travelling alone, I chose to sit on an aisle seat instead of the window seat so I can have easier access to the restroom whenever I need to. However, before getting to my seat, I had a hard time getting through, since my luggage was a bit wider than the width of the aisle.  After a bit of pulling and some maneuvering on my part, I was able to finally reach my seat.  The people around were kind enough to help me with my hand-carry luggage.  Lucky for me, I was seated next to an elderly woman with her grandson. So I was at least assured that I wouldn't be bothered during the flight.  Anyway, after ensuring that my luggage were properly stored, I began to mentally prepare myself for our take-off.  Because, yes, I do admit that though I love to travel, I particularly don't like take-offs and encountering heavy turbulence during any flight.  I actually envy those people who instantly fall asleep and would just awaken when the plane has already landed.  

Managed to finish three movies
               Well, maybe it just comes with age.  Because I remember that when I was travelling as a child with my parents, I was worry-free and actually excited to ride on a plane. Now that I'm older, I guess I'm more aware of my mortality and of the things that can go wrong. To help lessen my anxiety during take-offs, I just normally pray the rosary.  Only when the seat belt sign has been removed, am I able to truly relax.  I guess it also helped when I performed a basic research beforehand on turbulence.  This gave me some comfort and a sense of safety after knowing more about it.  To take my mind off any remaining worry, I decided to just watch some movies.  I think I was able to finish around three movies and I even managed to catch some much needed shut-eye in between.  It was also a blessing that the flight was smooth overall.  Though we still experienced some turbulence, it was minimal and didn't last very long.  

                Nevertheless, I couldn't contain my excitement when our pilot announced that we have safely landed in Sydney Airport.  With my bags in tow, I was eager to finally start my three-week Australian adventure.
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