Saturday, 13 February 2016

Sydney - Travelogue

Last year, after a long while I took a break and visited Australia with my husband. It was June, the last week of Ramadan - the month of fasting. I wanted to celebrate Eid (Muslim Festival marking the end of fasting month) with my brother and his family who lives in Sydney and also see Australian winters. We stayed at my brother's place (of course) but while kids had school and my brother was at work, we roamed around the city by ourselves. On weekends mostly we did family outings. My sister in law had already listed down things for us to see and my brother gave us all the necessary tips.

One thing that you must remember when you plan your day's activity is that the malls and most shops close around 5pm in Australia. You must start your day early and make sure you note down the food places that remain open until late night. We were saved by desi food shops :)

Our first day in Sydney was a Friday so we went to this Muslim dominated area called Auburn where we offered our Friday prayers in a Turkish Mosque.
The Gallipoli Mosque
Interior of the mosque
The mosque was beautiful and the Friday sermon was in Arabic, Turkish and English.

Flemington Train Station 
We took trains to roam around the city. You must buy Opal card (a prepaid card for public transport) and watch out for occasional promotions like a free ride after a certain number of rides or family day etc.
Our best friend throughout the trip was this app called 'Sydney Trains' which tells you the timings and platform number of the train that you need to take. Google maps helped us whenever we were lost. My suggestion would be to buy a local sim with an internet package to avoid wasting time in understanding directions. The train system is quite complicated. And sometimes you not only need to change multiple trains but also take ferry to reach your destination. If you intend to travel by train, be prepared to walk. Wear comfortable shoes and keep yourself warm if you are visiting in winters.

The first trip that my husband and I took was from Flemington train station (nearest station from my brother's house)  to 'Circular Quay' to see the landmark of Australia - Sydney Opera house

Sydney Opera House is huge with a restaurant, a souvenir shop and of course the theaters. You can watch a play there but unfortunately, the only ticket we were getting was in the last section where we would have to watch a 4 hours play standing :(
The Sydney Opera
A closer view of Sydney Opera House 
Once you get down at the central station you have access to quite a few famous places. You can book ferry trips and tours. At every corner there are tourist information counters with extremely friendly staff to guide you. Free maps and information booklets can be obtained from them.

Random guy at the Circular Quay station
Next to opera house is Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens. Australians are very active and sporty people. While we both were shivering in the cold, we saw people jogging and running in their T-shirts and shorts. The whole atmosphere in this area was very energizing yet calming. There are other tourist attractions and malls at a walking distance from central station. I was in love with 'The Rocks' which is just a few meters away. There was a small weekend market there with beautiful arty handmade stuff. What we were unable to do due to fasting was to have the Pancakes on the Rocks. I understand that they are heavenly and a must try.

Wandering around The Rocks
Town Hall area is also nearby. You can take the train and get down at Town Hall station or walk. We walked. At town hall the best attractions are the beautiful Queen Victoria Building,Town hall, St. Andrew's Cathedral and many other similar buildings with old architecture. You will have a great time exploring streets, roadside coffee shops and other markets. 
Queen Victoria Building 
The Great Australian Clock 

The second landmark of Australia is the beautiful Darling Harbour. We kept a full day to explore this recreational zone.It is a beautiful sight indeed especially at night. Madam Tussads, Sealife & Wildlife are all there in a row. We bought this one deal ticket for all three things including the Sydney Tower Eye for a full view of Sydney. The guy at the counter turned out to be a Pakistani. Talkative and friendly. He told us that the Nandos nearby is halal as we needed to pin down a place for breaking fast. 
View at night

We did all the three things in one go. At wild life park, I paid another 20 dollars on top of my ticket to be able to see the Koala bear - up and close. A lot of photos were taken by the staff at the zoo and some by my husband but I just think the best was this selfie where I think the Koala is looking at me <3

We were hell tired after seeing all the three things in one day. By the time we reached the Sealife, I was almost dragging myself through different sections. My advise would be to either not do all the three things in one day or at least not on a day you are fasting ;)

Thanks to google maps we reached Nandos at the time of breaking fast but I couldn't speak a word and probably could not see well too. When I entered the place and raised two fingers for waiter to seat us, he looked at me surprised, "Madam, the restaurant is empty. You can sit anywhere." That was one grilled chicken that we both ate in absolute silence. It was delicious. I think because I was very tired and hungry but my husband says that it had a a different smokey flavor. And since my husband is better than me at ingredient guessing - I believe him.

After filling our stomachs we went to see the Harbourside Shopping Centre where we had this amazing fudge at The Fudge Shop with coffee from Gloria Jeans.

Darling Harbour in its full glory at night 
Before heading home, we stopped at the Sydney Tower Eye to see the 360 degree view of Sydney from the height of 260 meters above Harbour Bridge. The ticket also included a 4D cinema experience.

View of Sydney from Sydney Tower Eye
Sunset at Manly Beach 
One of the weekends, my sister in law planned a picnic at the Manly Beach Reserves. We packed home cooked food and took a ferry to reach the beautiful beach. The weather was very windy and beautiful that day but too cold for an outdoor picnic, that too after sunset. After enjoying the beautiful scenery,  we all snuggled in my brother's car, turned on the heater and enjoyed our homemade snacks. Later we wandered on the streets to in search of coffee that we finally had in 'Bluewater Cafe, Manly'

Since I am not huge coffee fan, my brother introduced me to 'chai latte' which was life saver throughout the trip and later turned to an addiction.
Chai Latte 
Bradman Lounge 
Cricket fanatics that we are, we took a tour of the Sydney Cricket Ground. It was a paid tour where they show you the whole behind the scenes like commentator's room, changing and locker rooms, rest areas and lounges. You get to go on the pitch too and see the VIP enclosures. There is also a museum included in the tour. I was super excited to see Imran Khan's name in the rolls of honour. There were hand written messages from different international cricketers which were a delight to read.

The View from VIP enclosure
During the Eid holidays, we planned a day trip to Blue Mountains to see the famous 'Three Sisters'. We took the train which was almost an hour ride from my brother's house. 'Three Sisters' is a rock formation representing three sisters who according to Aboriginal legend were turned to stone. Another interesting attraction in the Blue Mountains is the 'Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum'. The collection of toys is displayed in a house where rooms are setup with toys around the world. There is beautiful 12 acres, well kept garden which is home to the railway museum and a fantastic place to take photographs.

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Since we went in winters, we enjoyed a very halal Bondi Beach (Haha). Bondi junction that is a little distance away from Bondi beach became my most favorite mall during the trip. I visited it twice. You will find a lot of graffiti in Sydney. We loved the ones we saw at Bondi beach. 

Bondi Beach
Graffiti at Bondi Beach 
Graffiti at Bondi Beach
We also went to see the China Town, where we had Malaysian food after a long time at a restaurant called Mamak. I did my souvenir shopping from China town and the paddy's market near my brothers house. We did most of our shopping from DFO (direct factory outlets). We also enjoyed roaming in the streets of Newtown area to explore the random graffiti.
The famous gate of Luna park and the excited me!  

With my nephew and niece we went to the Luna Park. It is small amusement park but the view is breathtaking as you see the Opera, Sydney Bridge and other buildings. while on the Ferris wheel and other rides.

Luna Park, Sydney. 
A must visit, I would say, is the University of Sydney. It is gorgeous. The photograph below is of The Quadrangle where I came to know the convocation happens. I was amazed at the beautiful, restored structure. The trees around the campus were huge with old roots. My husband kept on motivating me to apply for PhD and mentally I started working on my proposal too. Thank God, it was our last day in Sydney ;)

University of Sydney
University of Sydney
FOOD!  How can I forget food when we ate like crazy. The desserts and coffee shops in Sydney are to die for. I think if during half of the trip had we not been fasting, we wouldn't be allowed on the plane due to our insane increased weight. Halal options are plenty as in every mall there is a food court which has Turkish/Labanese/Yemeni food. Indian food is also halal. There are Muslim dominated areas where you can get Pakistani, Indian and Middle Eastern foods. And if nothing else, the famous burger chain, Aporto, has halal chicken patty. You will find Aporto in every mall and every corner of the road.  In most areas Nandos is also halal. But we mostly spent time eating snacks like salads and fruit yoghurt from Top juice instead of full meals. Top Juice was our ultimate favorite find. I wish someone could bring it to Malaysia. We had churros from just any shop, ice creams from every second ice cream parlor, coffee, cakes, pastries, muffins and what not!

Some of my favorite food places include the Top Juice, Faheem Fast Food, Armani Restaurant,  Agha Juice,  Max Brenner Chocolate bar, Meat & Wine Co, Royal Copenhagen Icecream and Pattison's Patisserie.

Here are just a few food memories from the trip:
These steaks at Meat & Wine Co., Darling Harbour (They serve Halal Steaks. Please ask the waiter to point those on the menu) 
This Falooda from Agha Juice, Merryland 
All this crazy desi stuff at Faheem Fast Food at Enmore Road
Arabic Lunch on Eid at Armani Restaurant, Parramatta 
Arabic Lunch on Eid at Armani Restaurant, Parramatta 
Churros and Chai Latte - Just anywhere, anytime
Yoghurt with Muesli and fruits 

Random desserts
There was still a lot more to do in Sydney that we could not cover as in between we also took a flight to Melbourne. The 3 days and 2 nights in Melbourne deserve a full post which will be coming soon.

I need another trip to Sydney soon to see the Taronga Zoo and Snowy Mountains which at this point top my list.

Can't wait!


  1. Simply awesome ��

  2. i just relived the whole trip through this post :)

  3. A lovely article and wonderful pictures! Thankd for sharing! :)

  4. Read about your trip. Most excited about the halal steak tip! haha. Thanks for sharing <3

  5. This looks amazing!!! Your pictures made this place come alive for me; booking my trip now!

  6. The area looks beautiful. It is nice to take a vacation and go somewhere that which such amazing buildings and wonderful scenery!

  7. Australia is at the top of my bucket list! The city is absolutely beautiful!

    Amanda ||

  8. What an awesome trip! I can't wait to visit one day!

  9. Ah-mazing! Your photos look like post cards. I so want to visit. I have family that is stationed in the military there and would like to visit as well.

  10. Wow, it looks like you had such a wonderful trip and packed a lot into it. I love your photos and the inside of the mosque looks so beautiful. THanks for sharing your trip with us, I've really enjoyed reading about it.

  11. Wow - what an amazing trip! Australia is on my travel bucket list and after reading your post and seeing your beautiful photos I want to go so badly!!!!!

  12. This looks like so much fun! I would love to visit Sydney someday! It's at the top of my travel bucket list.

    xo, Keating | Keating & Co

  13. I studied abroad in Australia in college and we took a weekend trip to Sydney. I loved it! We did a bike tour around the city, climbed the bridge, and saw the Opera House!

  14. Such beautiful photos! I love stumbling across such art work 💕💕

  15. You're SOOOOO lucky!!! I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Sydney (: Beautiful photos!

  16. I'm dying to go to Sydney! You're photos are awesome. Looks like you had a great trip.


  17. These pictures are SO beautiful! I want to visit Australia so badly!

  18. Your style is veery unique compared too other folks I've read stuff from.
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