Sydney and Cairns, Australia – April 1 – 6th, 2015
It was a 9 hour overnight flight from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, our 5th continent visited on our trip. We were so stoked. I know the kids picked Australia as a must see, but now Len and I were just as excited as they were. We had three weeks to find kangaroos and koalas, to see the Great Barrier Reef and to soak up the sun on Australian beaches. But first we decided to see the sights in Sydney. We had 3 days in Sydney and as usual we didn’t have anything planned.
On our arrival in Sydney we were met with rain and cooler temperatures, a drastic change from the +30 degree temperatures we had become accustomed to in South East Asia. Out came our rain coats, sneakers and long pants. Not wanting to let the rain get the better of us we quickly changed and headed out to see the sights.
First stop Sydney Harbor. Even in the rain the Sydney Harbour doesn’t disappoint. We decided against touring the Sydney Opera House and just admired it from the harbour, surrounded by yachts, ferries and cruise ships. It is impossible not to smile from ear to ear, even in the rain, when you stand there looking at the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the all the lights reflecting off the water. It was such an amazing feeling to stand there looking at landmarks we’ve only seen in pictures and to be there, right in front of it all. It was magical… bucket list magical.
Trying to escape the rain we headed to the Museum of Sydney. This was definitely a highlight for the kids. The current exhibit at the museum was the theme, The History of Toys. Our signature approach of a lack of planning followed by spontaneity, to be in Sydney on this date and at the Museum of Sydney, was coincidently perfect. The museum had a current interactive LEGO Exhibit (Towers of Tomorrow), which the kids would love. However, it was sold out for the 3:30 p.m. session, which was the only session that we could possibly attend. Having just been in LEGOLAND (Malaysia) and the kids, living and breathing LEGO, previous to and during our RTW trip, we really wanted the kids to experience this LEGO exhibit. Len went to speak with one of the Museum staff who had been selling museum admission tickets and made a plea (about our RTW trip, the kids’ love of LEGO, recent trip to LEGOLAND) to ask if there was any way to squeeze in two more kids to the 3:30 p.m. exhibit. It worked!! We got tickets. So we toured the museum and saw The History of Toys exhibit, which was great for Len and I, as it was a retro ride back into the past. The kids enjoyed it too, but not as much as they just could not calm down enough to fully take in the exhibit. They were more worried about how long it was until 3:30 p.m.
We were in line well before 3:30 and the kids were very excited to have the chance to experience LEGO in this way. It was well worth the extra admission cost. The exhibit was LEGO replicas of Asian and Australian super high-rise buildings, some of which we had seen (PETRONAS Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur; Marina Bay Sands Resort, Singapore). They were all very impressive and we got to view a video about the LEGO Master Builder (Ryan McNaught, one of only 12 worldwide LEGO Certified Professionals) who built the LEGO exhibit. The exhibit had a large LEGO work area with a variety of LEGO pieces for visitors (mostly children, but surprisingly many adults too) to build their own LEGO structures, towers or whatever LEGO structure that they could imagine. The kids and we, the adults too, really enjoyed this exhibit. It was one of our highlights of Sydney for sure.
Sites from the Hop on Hop off bus ….
Aurora spotted here name a few times.
Another one of our stops was Darling Harbour. It was raining then too, but we didn’t let the weather get us down, as we had our knock off North Face Gortex raincoats from Hoi Ann, Vietnam to keep us dry. We initially stopped there for shopping, but we were lucky enough to be there for an exhibit called NomansLanding, which was a free interpretive art exhibit to commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC. ANZAC is an acronym for Australian New Zealand Army Corps. One Hundred years ago, in April 1915, ANZAC soldiers landed and fought in Gallipoli, Turkey and sustained immense loss of life. ANZAC commemorative day was on April 23rd, so we were in Sydney a few weeks ahead of the day. However we had heard about Gallipoli and ANZAC soldiers, long before we arrived in Australia. When we were in Turkey last year, a tour we went on passed by Gallipoli. We did not go to Gallipoli, but we did get to hear about it, at the time, from some Australian, British and Turkish people. Gallipoli, is a very significant place to the Turkish people, as well as Australians and New Zealanders. We did not see a lot of the exhibit at Darling Harbour, but the little that we saw was a very nice commemoration to the ANZAC soldiers.
After three days in Sydney of walking in the rain and seeing the various historic sites, buildings, neighborhoods and points of interest, via the Hop On/Hop Off Bus, it was time to head onward to Cairns where the sun was shining, the skies were blue and the Easter Bunny was waiting. After landing in Cairns we took a taxi to our hotel. The taxi driver gave us such a warm welcome to Cairns and made a point to show us where the grocery stores were, restaurants that we must try and sights we must see.
It was hard to believe that this was our second Easter on the road. The Easter Bunny was waiting for us in Cairns and spoiled the kids with lots of treats. We spent our Easter sleeping in, playing LEGO and getting to know Cairns.
We tried but were not successful at pronouncing Cairns as the locals said it. They say it very fast, with an Aussie accent and as if the “I” is not part of the word. The best phonetic spelling I can come up with is “Karen’s” said as quickly as you could with only half pronouncing the “e”. It was a very distinctive word, very clearly Australian.
We spent three days in Cairns, a smaller city of about 150,000 that was filled with expats, tourists and bats. Cairns appears to be a stop tourists use as a jumping spot to get tours to the Great Barrier Reef. Most tourists are only in Cairns for a few days waiting for their tour. We were no different. That was part of the reason we were in Cairns. Over the past year of travel we have seen many strange things, but the invasion of giant fruit bats (called “Flying Foxes” by locals) was one of the strangest. The sky fills with these enormous bats and the branches of the mango trees sag from the weight of the bats hanging on them. Looking up to the evening sky to see it filled with large distinctive bat wings instead of feathered bird wings, was surreal. Up until now that was something that each of us had only seen on TV or in movies. We saw a bat filled sky in Cairns… and that was not even on our bucket list!! When the bats were flocked in the trees in the late afternoon and early evening, their squelching noises were deafening and made it hard to have a conversation. Along some of the streets lined with the mango trees there was free parking; only because no one wants to park their vehicle there for fear of getting covered in bat poo/pee. We noticed the concrete sidewalk spotted with bat poo/pee and you are really living on the edge if you dared to walk down the street under the mango trees. More than one local person warned us not to look up with our mouths open (out of awe I suppose), because if you happened to be unlucky enough to have your mouth open and swallow some of the bat poo/pee you could contract a serious disease. Upon our first sighting of the bats, the ever curious Len , had to get a closer look and snapped a few photos, here’s a few.
We stayed at the Cairns Plaza Hotel, which was an excellent location along the shore. We enjoyed walking along Esplanade Street, watching the tide roll in and out, stopping to listen to the amazing buskers and trying new restaurants. We found a good restaurant, that we frequented numerous times, and as far as we could tell, so did many other locals and tourists. Make sure you stop by and try some pub grub there, it was called PJ O’Brian’s Irish Pub, and was very good value for the money.
Unfortunately, Len didn’t get to try a crocodile burger. Len was a little disappointed, but Aurora, our new found vegetarian, was relieved that an animal was not harmed.
Our favorite spot was definitely the sandy clear blue Cairns Lagoon along Esplanade Street. The kids loved swimming and splashing around until it was dark and then returning to the hotel to jump into the pool to rinse off the fine sand from the Lagoon. Cairns is filled with tourist offices offering so many different tours and experiences. We would like to have done dozens of different tours and experiences but we just didn’t have the time or money to do it all. We shopped around and booked a few further stops and experiences for the rest of our time in Australia. Our days in Cairns were a perfect balance of relaxation and planning for our upcoming adventures.