29 July 2006

Out of Hotel: Bondi Trekking

I was out today, trying to do the things Sydneysiders would do, hopefully, getting some of that Sydney energy and vibe rubbing off me.

The weather was beautiful. Clear blue skies, mild winds, temperatures in the mid 10s - if there is a better day in the Aussie winter, it hasn't happened yet.

So I hopped onto a bus and went out to Bondi beach, the famous Aussie beach. I wanted to do the famous Bondi-Coogee trek. While Bondi beach is a nice, sandy beach, and is good for people watching, I was really lured by the fact that all along the coast from Bondi to Bronte, and then to Coogee, is one of the world's most famous hikes.

This is full of pictures, so sue me if you have a slow connection.

The world famous Bondi beach. Normally, it would have been crowded ... maybe it's winter. But look closely and you'll still see die hard surfers and sunbathers.

The walk starts at the southern end of Bondi. The trail is very well marked, and you won't miss the stream of humans walking the same stretch.

OK, if you still can't find the start of the trail, over at Bondi, look for a sight like the picture above. Then look for lots and lots of people. BTW, the square building at water's edge is Bondi Icebergs - a very famous bar / restaurant.

You can then either stop at Bronte, and double back to Bondi (since there aren't many buses at Bronte, unless you take the Bondi explorer service). Or you could do what I do, and go all the way to Coogee.

Mackenzie's point, as seen on the walk, just past Bondi Icebergs. Look for the aboriginal fish stone drawing, it's quite well hidden, actually.

The Bondi-Bronte walk is a leisurely 2kms, taking around 1 hour. The Coogee walk involves more slopes, and is longer, around 4kms, but you would be able to do it in around 1.5 hours if you're not overly distracted.

Past Mackenzie's point, this is the view looking down towards Tamarama Bay, Tamarama Beach, and Bronte itself.

Bronte is a nice beach, not for the faint hearted - the waves are really hard and pounding - you actually hear the 'boom' everytime a big one hits the rocky shorelines.

Tamarama beach. Nice quaint little beach for the family. No hassles, no loud music.

Tamarama beach is a small sheltered beach, pretty friendly for the family with small cafes and children's playground.

Waves pound the rocky shoreline at Clovelly. I spent 30 minutes near this point, just enjoying the scenery, taking in the sun and the sea breeze. And of course, I'm a sucker for the sound of waves.

The view back towards Bondi and Mackenzie point, taken from Tamarama. I'm all in agreement that this is one of the most scenic ocean hikes in the world.

Me at Clovelly Point. Like I said, I'm a sucker for waves. The sound of waves, to be exact. And I'm slightly claustrophobic, so open spaces are totally welcome.

All along the walk, there are many lookout points with jaw dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. Don't you wish we had these too in Malaysia?

Looking from a lookout point just short of Coogee back at Clovelly. This must have been the bestest hike I've had all year. It's so good I'm actually blogging about it ...

The end ... that's Coogee, where the trek would end. Of course, I didn't know that when I took this photo. Coogee is a good makan place - everything from fish and chips (look for a shop that goes by the name of Chish and Fhips - just across from McDonald's). I settled for a regular cafe - overlooking the sea - of course.

Man, woman and dog, in the great outdoors. What's there not to enjoy? Now, I just need a dog *easy* and a woman *definately NOT easy* ...

Some of the cliffs are simply spectacular. And with all those rocks at the bottom, this is not a good place to take your partner if you wanna break up with 'em. It could turn really ugly.

While everyone might be just thinking about Bondi, personally, I felt that the hike itself was a much better experience. I'm not into just lying down on the beach getting sun burnt. The walk, with all of it's sights and sounds, has a greater appeal to me.

Giles Bath, near Coogee. There are a few baths, stone pools built along the coast in the early years of the previous century. This was how the beach culture really started - no one really went to the beach at those times - they just go to the baths.

Coogeee beach, part of the Coogee Marine Reserve. While strong waves and rocky coastlines may suggest otherwise, there is plenty of aquatic life under the surface. There are even marine trails, just like nature trails that have been marked for scuba divers to 'trek'.

After the trek, I went back to the city to have some coffee in the shadows of the Opera House. That's a much photographed sight you've probably seen very often, so none of that here. Dinner was at the Darling Harbour. Here's a night shot of the city from the harbour.

Angeliu, jealous? 1/2 dozen fresh Pacific Oysters for AUD15. Jealous?? Want?? Followed that with Ocean Trout, and washing that down with some nice Aussie Pinot Noir. Me love oysters.

28 July 2006

The Sydney Office ...

OK, today, I'd like to show you guys how my company's office is like in Sydney. This office is super nice - very cutting edge, at least in terms of the interior decor ... and is a very open layout, very inviting, warm, and still, it's an office area ...

*For people who think I OWN the company, I have this to say ... woi ... stop dreaming. It's the office of the company I work for, ok? Can't I not be specific everywhere I go?*

This is the area around where I sit. The whole concept is that you have hives - open spaces which is not assigned to anyone - no one has a permanent space. You come in, go to your general seated area, and then plug in and sit anywhere a seat is available. And near every few hives, you get a sofa set with tables, a discussion area, a chillout area and a drinks station with coffee, tea and chocolate served. The picture above is taken from my seat, looking at the discussion chairs just behind me.

Coming into the office in the morning, this is the view. While there are offices, demo rooms, meeting rooms and even labs on the ground floor, this floor is mostly an open area. You chill out here, there's a coffee bar and the pantry is actually this entire area, actually. This is the same area where our guests wait. So, you can call this a reception area doubling as our pantry tripling as the coffee / lunch break area.

Taken from the 1st floor, where I'm seated, this is a view of the reception area. Nice chairs, huh? You can see the coffee bar, just at the top end of the picture ... I should take one during the day when you can see how the lights all come into play, since the building is all glass.

One of the many discussion rooms in the office. The discussion rooms are all named after scientists. This one has tables, sofas and also a few PCs. Nice, huh? There are so many nice rooms ... I don't think I can put them all here ... they all have different color schemes, layouts and furnitures. It's all very nice. And I think most of the furnitures are IKEA pieces. Perhaps Taiko can identify and confirm them.

Hehe ... totally unrelated to the Sydney office, but here to antagonize someone ... here's a shot of the tiramisu I had tonite =) .... drooling or not?

24 July 2006

Sydneysider for a day ...

Sunday in Sydney. Clear blue skies on a winter day. The weather cooperated, I discovered a much easier way of getting from the hotel to the city, and boy, it was a nice day indeed.

As I normally do, I'm sharing with you the photos and some commentaries about my little trip. Click to see the bigger picture.

I took a bus to the city - and the first thing I did was to walk the Harbour Bridge. It's probably no big deal for the hundreds of other tourists and Sydneysiders, but it's a huge deal to me. Why? I'm afraid of heights. Ok - I wanna make clear I didn't do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, where you walk on the span, I simply walked on the bridge - besides cars, the bridge also has pedestrian walkways and also a train track running on it. Talk about multi purpose.

The reward for the climb was the few photos that I managed to take - they're all beautiful !! This is the pick - the Opera House. At last, I was able to photograph all 3 buildings in a single go. You won't believe how difficult it was for a person like me who has height fears !!

Next stop: The weekend market at the Rocks. It's a tourist market, alright, but still, set in the historical part of Sydney simply called The Rocks, it's not something to miss. There were cafes, food, the normal art and souvenir stores and also crowds. Not to miss as a tourist.

And after the market, it was straight down to Circular Quay - this time, with much anticipation. It's The Rocks Aroma coffee festival. All the best coffee in Sydney available for just $1 per cup. And here's why I came - there's a world champion barista there !!! Imagine - you go in line for around 20 minutes, pay $1 and get to sample the BEST coffee in the world !!! Angel ... jeles or not? Jeles ? Why drink all those cheapo Bintang Ringgit coffee back home and call 'em good??? Starbucks wasn't even at this festival .... bah ...

Walking along George Street after getting all the coffee I could possibly take without suffering from caffeine OD, I came across .... *wipes eyes* ... Angel Place !!! Wei ... Angel ... you so rich ka ? So, that's where your blog's first name came from ... City Recital Hall !!!

Still along George St., I went into the Strands Arcade. It's a normal shopping arcade ... but ... it's got this really Victorian style decor, which made it a must visit place for photos. Not too bad, a bit quiet, but still very nice.

But the real beauty amongst all the shopping places in Sydney must be the QVB - Queen Victoria Building. One trivia about this place: did you know the QVB is owned by Malaysian company Ipoh Gardens Berhad??

The QVB is an old Victorian building converted into a pretty posh shopping mall. It's maintained the old facade, the ancient grills and still has much of the original tiles. It's really very nice indeed. The lack of a wide lens made it quite impossible to photograph the building, interior and exterior and still do justice to the scale of the place.

Since it was lunch hour, I decided to have some good ol' Victorian Fish and Chips, with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, of course. But to end it on a sweet note, you have to have this - the Tiramisu. See it standing? It's baked with Viagra, ok? Or is it? But it's really nice - and the ice cream adds a very nice finish to it, indeed. Enjoying local food experiences like this one, takes time and also calls for some adventure - definately sometime an organized tour will not be able to afford. Which is why I love to travel on my own.

Next to George St is Pitt St, another major shopping area in Sydney. Not to be missed to. I just bought a new pair of nice formal trousers and matching cufflinks. Not much of a retail theraphy. Not like I needed any, anyways.

A short walk away from QVB, you would find Pyrmont Bridge, which stradles Cockle Bay Wharf and Darling Harbour. This is yet another must visit place - you can either walk, or you can take the monorail here. Across the bridge, you find the impressive Maritime Museum and also the casino. On Cockle Bay Wharf, you get really good food, and some great views of the harbour as well.

If you don't believe me about the view, here's something - this is Sydney skyline taken from near the Maritime museum, near the HMS Bounty display. You can see the Sydney aquarium, right ahead, just along the water ... plenty of sharks there. All of Australia's known aquatic fauna is found here. Well, I decided to give it a skip. Maybe if I have time later.

And from the end of the bay, where Darling Harbour meets Cockle Bay wharf, here's another shot of Sydney, this time with the Pyrmont bridge in view as well. I spent a lot of time just sitting along the water, gazing at the view, people watching, and getting some sun. Nice.

And finally, some of the restaurants and pubs along King Street wharf, again, all overlooking the water. I actually wondered aloud while I was there ... what if KL had all these waterfront? I just imagined mamak stalls hogging the waterline, and water full of ciggy butts and all sorts of rubbish and other unwanted trash. How sad.

There, people, Sydney on Sunday. I hope to get some photos tomorrow while I'm in Melbourne. Yes, I'll be in Melbourne for 2 days and 1 night. Hope to hear from you folks what else I should be doing in Sydney ...

23 July 2006

Top Ten Signs You're At A Bad Celebrity Wedding

Being overseas currently, I rely a lot on Online News sites to get my dose of Malaysian news and stories. And of course, just earlier this week, when Siti Nurhaliza announced her wedding plans with Datuk K, the papers just had 1 story, really.

The world might as well have come tumbling down. Or World War III might begin soon. Or the economy is going south. And the next time you wake up from your sleep, you'll be paying a few more limbs for petrol. But all that matters is that Siti is getting off the market.

So, being the busybody I am, for those of you who're invited either to her wedding, or to any other celebrity wedding in the future, here's a list of signs telling you you're at a pretty bad celebrity wedding ...

  • The bride's designer wedding gown looks like dozens of IKEA shopping bags glued together.
  • You're reminded to pay up for your own dinner before you leave.
  • There was a table reserved for the couple's children, grand children and divorce attorneys from previous marriages.
  • All 3 of the bride's ex-husbands and all 2 of the groom's future mistresses were at the reception. At the same table.
  • The main course: McBubur, followed by the new KFC burger, served with bottled mineral water.
  • There wasn't any wedding albums at the entrance of the reception hall. They put a stamp album there instead.
  • The whole reception hall is full of bachelors, record executives and movie producers, all crying like babies.
  • The best man is really a policeman who's making sure the groom doesn't jump out of the room and escape.
  • In response to high petrol prices, the couple made their grand entrance, arriving in a public bus.
  • The door gift: a VCD of the home video of the couple bullying their foreign maid.
Oh, if no one noticed, it's been a long while since I last did any of the Top Ten lists. 2 hours isn't a lot, but my body is still adjusting to the time difference - I'm screwing my meal hours, my sleep and as a consequence, I'm not getting enough time to read and blog. Once I get adjusted to the new times, this blog will again look more like a Top Ten blog than a travelogue. Not that being a travelog is a bad thing, or is it?

22 July 2006

Hanging around a Coat Hanger

When I first saw and realised where my hotel was in Sydney, my heart actually sank a bit. I'm put up in the Courtyard by Marriot at Talavera Road. Now, for Malaysians who might not get it, it's like being sent for a business trip in KL and then being booked in a hotel somewhere in Rawang. Or further. Maybe it's Kuala Kubu Baru. Whatever. The idea is that since the Australian office is actually in Macquarie University's grounds, this is one of the nearest hotels to stay in.

Here's my story so far in Sydney. As usual, click on photos to see a bigger image. Do it, you'll not regret it. If you do regret clicking the photos, well, sue me.

What is means is ... I only get to go Sydney on the weekends.

And because of some late night work on Friday, I didn't get into the city until late =(. However, my old pal Eric happened to be in Sydney as well, and we did get to meet up on Friday night at Chinatown to have a meal at this really popular restaurant - remember the name - Golden Century. When we got there, the waiting list was 1 hour long. There were 40 names ahead of us. How about that?

Eric, who is now staying in Canberra, recommended this dish ... the Lobster Yee Mein with Ginger and Shalots. The damage on this dish alone? Around A$ 130. Notice Eric across the table, cleaning his hands, preparing to dig into the lobster. We just ordered a rainbow trout to go with this dish. And we couldn't finish it. Even after 90 minutes of sincere effort.

So after all the hard work on Friday, I naturally woke up late and only got into the city at lunch time today. At first, it looked like the day was going to be washed out - it was drizzling when I got there, but the weather cleared when I was having lunch, and for a winter day, it couldn't have been better.

Lunch was over at The Rocks, overlooking both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Here's my lunch view ... oh, well, the ocassional birds did drop by, hoping for some leftovers to pick on. But really, I had Risotto for lunch - there wasn't anything leftover ...

And for dessert, I had the Apple, Pear and Wildberry crumble, served with homemade Butterscotch ice cream and sauce. Yummy indeed .... yummy ...

Oh, and not forgetting a nice glass of Australian Reisling. Here's a little tip for you guys ... when having a wet dish, such as Risotto, pair it with some dry white wine. They complement each other well.

Well, I really didn't stray very far from Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour and The Rocks today, so you could probably tell I was all about the Opera House today. I planned to have lunched and then move elsewhere in the city because the weather was really poor before lunch, but when the weather turned for the better, I couldn't help but decide to do all the Opera House photos today, while the weather is cooperating.

I walked over to the Botanical Gardens, which is quite nice, full of trees and flowers, and better still, had great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge - Coat Hanger - to the locals.

This picture of the Opera House and Coat Hanger against the backdrop of the setting sun is taken from Mrs Macquaries Chair, a natural niche in the sand stone cliff in the Botanical Gardens. It's beautiful.

I took some rest along the water in the Botanical Gardens at sunset, resting my foot after a day of walking. All day long, there were groups of visitors doing the Harbour Bridge climb. If only I had someone to go with me ... I wanna go, but I'd like to have some company. You can probably spot some Harbour Bridge climbers in the photo above.

This is just another picture of the Opera House and the Coat Hanger. Too bad we're not allowed to stay late at this point - a night shot from here would have been priceless !

But night shot, I did get. This one is taken from The Rocks. I was a little disappointed they didn't put up different colored lights - it was just white lights. Maybe it's an identity thing, I dunno. From this angle, I can see why they say the Opera House looks like a sailing ship. It's a beautiful building ... a worthy landmark of a city such as Sydney.

And finally, here's a night shot of the Harbour Bridge.

I can't wait for the tomorrow, and after that, the next weekend. I'm really looking forward to discovering more and more of Sydney.