Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fun in the sun, down-un'

As I flew from Hawaii to the the Sydney, I crossed the date line and lost a day. With a blink of the eye, it was next day, same time. Imagine falling into a deep sleep and walking up exactly 24 hrs later. Thankfully it was the leap day, the spare day we get once every four years (except multiples of 100, but not 400. It's complicated) So I used a quirk of the calendar that gives us one extra day to pay for the quirk of timezones that cost me a day. It was a fair deal and I called it even. In addition, this was my first time in the southern hemisphere. I did feel my world turn upside down, but I attributed that to motion sickness from some unexpected high altitude turbulence.

Touchdown in Sydney and it was time to explore. I went straight to the Opera House and photographed it from various angles, light conditions, camera settings, filters, etc. After all that is the only landmark of Sydney that really stands out and I was out to get the most mileage out of it. The Opera house construction has an expected story of projects going well over budget, just this time a whopping 1457% over budget. Ok, let's take a few more pictures, in the hope that it justifies the cost just a little bit.

My impressions of Sydney were that it was clean and had a relaxed vibe, even for a big city. The sticker shock was alleviated slightly by a favorable exchange rate for the USD. Though with tax is included in the price, it feels like you get 9% off on everything. Public transport is excellent and very affordable. I used the ferry service for cheap cruises around the harbor. Expert tip, the best views of the city are to be had from the ferry. Yet another angle for that internet picture of the Opera House.

As I wandered around the city, I noticed that sight seeing has been replaced by sight backing. Everyone gets to a landmark and then turns around for a selfie. People watching is a lot of fun near famous landmarks. Why do people yell for a picture? After a while, the Australian heat got to me and I headed indoors to a museum. I wanted to get acquainted with the all killer creatures that Australia was famous for. It's good to know your enemy before the battle. There will be no battle for me as Australia's fauna is way out of my league. Most dangerous jellyfish, octopus, spider, snake, crocodile, shark make for a formidable line up. Half the creatures' poison had no known antidotes. A sting from a box jellyfish can kill an adult human in four minutes. I instinctively stepped back from the exhibit and crossed myself silently. The whole nope creatures exhibit gave me chills and I stepped out into the sunshine, pondering these creatures lurking around me.

Australia is famous for sun kissed beaches backed up against the deep blue ocean. The beaches are pretty and more so, the people. Bondi was packed with 6 packs. It was like being at beautiful people convention and I felt rather out of place. I wondered how could everyone be so gorgeous. I concluded that there might be a correlation between fitness and good looks. I was told that body scrutinizing is a Sydney pastime. I can safely declare that it is a rewarding pastime. I promised to have a 6 pack the next time at Bondi. No, not a 6 pack of Budlight. I will have to change my go to gym from Jim Beam to something else.

After Sydney it was onto Brisbane famous mainly for a a city near it. Gold Coast. It is like someone being friends with you because your brother is so cool, not entirely unique I suppose. Gold Coast is like the Vegas of Australia. It's a curious assortment of tourist traps. There is a strip club next to an antique photo shop. There's a tarot card reader stall next to one that sells organic dog shampoo. Throw in a guy with pet snakes charging a $20 for a picture with his snake around your neck. And top it off with a stand talking about Jesus opposite to a table talking about Allah. Whatever floats your boat.

One thing I enjoyed about the beaches is that the water is warm. All NorCal peeps will understand this sentiment. It is inexplicably a lot of fun to thrash around in the ocean. Only the ocean can bring back that unbridled joy from our childhood. Maybe that's why there are nude beaches and not nude ice cream shops. I can attest that bathing in the ocean au naturel is a rather liberating experience. Just make sure the tide is not going out because as Warren Buffet said "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked"

A few miscellaneous observations. Timezones in Australia are weird. Brisbane that lies 8 degrees to the east of Melbourne is an hour behind. They use the metric system, which while refreshing in its simplicity certainly lacks in character. I like that there are 5280 ft in mile or 128 oz in a gallon. And I found an entire store dedicated to tea. I remembered an incident an Aussie guy had narrated to me a few years back. Once he was hiking in a Tasmanian snowstorm and came across a lost hiker. Assessing the gravity of the situation and that the hiker was a nervous wreck, his first course of action was to fix up a cuppa before proceeding any further. Tea must be serious business here but food portions are rather small. I am used to American servings where you eat not until you are full, but until you are sick. While the large serving sizes are bad for the waist lines, we at least get our money's worth. Also, houses here don't have massive garages that cover half the front of the house. I wonder where they store the bikes that have not been used since 2005, the kayaks since the 2003 floods, the power tools since Jim gave up on woodworking in 1995; the antique clock sitting silent in the hope of being discovered someday, etc etc. And lastly, the Aussie accent is delightful to the ear. There is an informal and friendly tone built into the accent that I wonder how it sounds when people fight or have a formal business meeting. Maybe in this slice of paradise, they have neither.

Thanks to Sampath and Sean for hosting me.

Ok, it is time for my high tea.