G'day mates!!! Kim and I spent ten days "down under" and not one Aussie gave me that famous greeting. I was seriously disappointed. But is was okay because with what they lacked in confirming my stereotypes they made up for with "brecky" (i.e. breakfast) served all day. At first this may not appear to make up for the paucity of "crikey's" and the occasional grappling of crocodiles outside my hotel room that I come to expect from this foreign land, but when you've been living in a place whose idea of a hearty breakfast consists of soba noodles with a side of pickled vegetables, pancakes for dinner sounds wonderfully appealing. Nearly every restaurant in Gold Coast and Sydney had the breakfast option all day.
Our trip started off with 5 nights in Surfer's Paradise on the famous Gold Coast. The beaches were absolutely beautiful and the water was perfect crystal blue. Surfer's Paradise is kind of like VA Beach, except it is very clean, white sand beaches, and not ghetto in the least bit. It was nice change of pace from the mayhem that is Tokyo. Kim and I are very laid back travelers so you can't really expect much from us as far as seeing the sites. We rented a car for three days and really only made it to a few places of interest.
Our first venture was Tambourine Mt., which is just outside of Surfer's Paradise. I definitely recommend going here for a full day of hiking and sampling the various wineries around the mountain. We managed to do a few hikes throughout the rainforest and also ventured over to the Skywalk. I highly recommend skipping the Skywalk particularly if you are budget conscious! It costs around AU$10 to $15 for a short walk above the rainforest canopy and a few trails below. Completely not worth it. Although it was informative, we wasted crucial winery time by taking this detour. By the time we got out we only managed to go to one winery called Witches Falls. Their wine is fantastic. A lot of the wineries that I've been to usually specialize in a few varieties of grapes and then have maybe two flagship styles that are their selling points. Witches Falls does essentially every type very well. I was thoroughly impressed. Unfortunately their wine is only sold in Australia.
The following day we headed up north to the Australia Zoo. The zoo was the home of the late Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter." By far the coolest zoo I have every been to. It is truly an amazing experience. Irwin literally turned this once reptile farm into a world class zoo packed with all of Australia's familiar and not so familiar animals in their natural habitat. Recently they've added an Asian section for certain endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger and Elephants. The highlights are the Kangaroo and Koala parks and of course the crocodile show. The kangaroo and koala parks allow visitors to walk through the parks where kangaroos roam freely. You literally can walk up to the kangaroo and feed, pet, or just plain sit and relax with these incredible animals. The koala park is also a good time as well. The crocodiles, believe it or not, did not manage to steal the show. It was the bird show that they put on that probably was the best part. All the birds are native to Australia and are highly trained.
We attempted to drive up to Noosa National Park after the zoo, but only made it as far as Mooloolaba. Mooloolaba was actually a pleasant surprise. It is located close to the beginning of the sunshine coast and has an excellent coastline along with pretty fancy apartments along the water. Not a bad alternative for a vacation spot if you want to escape the crowds of the Gold Coast. After visiting Mooloolaba we headed to downtown Brisbane for dinner and that was that.
I don't really have any comments on Brisbane other than I finally found a decent beer in Australia, which is surprisingly very hard to come by. Apparently Aussies, like the Japanese, love their lagers. Many of their most popular brews hauntingly resembled the taste of old college favorites: Toohey's New = Natural Light - "Keep it Natural Carolinas," XXXX beer (called four x) = Olympia "its the water," Carlton = Old Milwaukee "America's best tasting beer," Victoria Bitter = Milwaukee's Best Light "Classic taste at its best." They have many varieties of these beers that seemingly all taste the same, just like our Budweiser variety. They also will call something an IPA or a Pale Ale and it somehow still resembles a lager. There is good beer to be had in Australia it is just difficult to find. Now the real kicker. Imagine buying a six pack of those old college favorites for about $15! How crazy is that? I was always wondering why Aussies never complained about beer prices in Japan. Talk about a rip off. Funny thing is, wine and liquor costs about the same dollar for dollar as in the States.
After the Gold Coast we flew down to Sydney. After being in Tokyo for so long, Sydney was a breath of fresh air. It was a lot smaller than I expected. I figured it was going to be about the size of San Francisco, but appeared to be just a bit bigger than Seattle. What I loved about Sydney was the fact that they maintained a lot of their old architecture. Everywhere you go around Sydney you will see old buildings that are renovated and used for practical purposes. For example they took an old victorian government building and turned it into a mall. Bars themselves are often housed in the bottom of old "hotels." A lot of the time a bar will be called for example 'the Winston Hotel' only it is not an actual hotel at all but just a bar. It's very strange and the only reason I can think of is due to liquor licensing laws. I know in some states in the US a bar will have to inherit the liquor license. If anyone knows the answer please let me know I can't find anything on google.
The city itself is walkable and there are plenty of stunning views of the waterfront. I recommend taking the Ferry to Manly for some surreal views of the Harbor. Another aspect of Sydney that was quite refreshing was the cuisine. A person can literally find any type of food within Sydney. From Lebanese to Nepalese, a variety of international cuisine is not hard to come by in Sydney. Overall I loved Australia. This is probably because it resembled a lot like the US and had all of our little conveniences we've come to love and expect. Aussies are great fun loving people and their accents are fantastic.
Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast
Sitting on the beach drinking ginger beer. We literally drank a ginger beer a day. It's fantastic! Ask an Aussie if he has tried root beer and he will have no idea what you are talking about. Ginger beer rules alone in Australia.
Kim chillin on the beaches of Surfer's Paradise
Surfer's Paradise, Gold Coast
Probably the only thing we really got out of the Skywalk was information on the strangler fig. This is probably one of the most interesting trees I have seen. First off they grow huge and are located along the east coast of Australia. They can be recognized by their root-like trunks and their enormous branches that resemble oak trees. What is so fascinating about this fig is that its seeds are passed by birds. The bird eats the seed then poops it out onto another tree. Meanwhile the fig starts to feed off the host tree and eventually crawls down to its base where it attacks the host tree's roots. The fig enventually swallows/strangles the host tree and this is the end result; one massive strangler fig tree.
Strangler Fig making its way down a host tree
Enormous strangler fig in the botanical gardens
Kim with a gray kangaroo at the kangaroo park in the Australia Zoo
Kim with a Koala at the Australia Zoo
Red Kangaroos at the Australia Zoo. Notice the baby in the pouch.
Apparently saltwater crocodiles could reach this size, CRIKEY! So says the Australia Zoo
Give me a four x mate!
Notice the brand names have changed. Rice bubbles seems unusually familiar to Rice Krispies. Instead of Raisin Bran they call it Sultana Bran.
I'm not leaving Australia!!!!
Cockatoo at the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. There are literally flocks of these parrots all over the garden not to mention giant fruit bats.
Astronomy Tower located on "The Cliffs"
Harry Potter numbering at "The Cliffs"
Opera House taken from Ferry on the way back from Manly
Sydney from Manly Ferry
Here we are in Cabramatta with Kim's cousin's BF, Linh. Linh literally drove overnight from Adelaide to Sydney (about 18hrs) without sleeping to show us around for one day! Good man. He showed us around Cabramatta, which is a huge Vietnamese community in Australia. We ate some solid Viet. food and then took nap down at Bondi Beach. The answer to your question is yes I am pregnant and the baby is due in 9 months.