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September 9, 2008

Monday in Sydney

Filed under: Australia 2008, Travel — anotherheader @ 9:08 pm

The iconic Opera House in bright sun from the ferry

The iconic Opera House in bright sun from the ferry

The time adjustment left us waking up early on Monday. We adjusted our stuff and headed out into the bright sun along the harbor down to Circular Quay. At the quay, we sorted through the ferry options and ended up deciding to take the boat to Darling Harbor in the next “bay-let” over. The ferry gives a great view of the city as you move past the famous Sydney Opera House and underneath the tourist ant infested Harbor Bridge.

Sydney, seen from the approach to Darling Harbor

Sydney, seen from the approach to Darling Harbor

At Darling Harbor we headed over to see the Fish Market. The trade portion of the market was closed when we arrived, not that they would

Wow!  Didn't know that we had to watch for new zebras in Australia!

And we didn't know new zebras crossed the road

have let the unwashed masses in to see anyway. The retail fish stores and restaurants were open and they displayed a truly amazing variety of fish and crustaceans in a multitude of colors and shapes amongst the cacophony of the packed mass of patrons. The varieties of crab were particularly impressive with a least ten different types. Never have we seen so many different types of seafood in one place.

Feeling hungry, we decided to eat. Our fresh oysters and fried fish were good, but the bright red Chinese Chili Crab, Pepper Crab, and abalone being consumed at seemingly every other table in the packed market looked particularly good. We guessed that the popularity of the dishes was related to the Chinese New Year. We also wondered how we missed the dishes on the menu and searched around to find them. Eventually we realized that this was not listed on the menu, but if you waded through the line and asked, you could get it made for you. Unfortunately, this knowledge was a little too late for this trip. There’s always the next visit!

Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

We walked back towards the harbor and into the Sydney’s Sky Casino. I decided to try a little poker to see how things differed Down Under. After a long wait, I finally got a seat at a table. I was not a winner, but I did see some interesting differences in the game including the highest rake (the casino’s take from the action) I’ve ever seen and a hand where a player with the best possible hand “The Nuts” at the showdown lost the hand because he didn’t flip both of his cards over in a timely fashion (he flipped only one card, which was more than enough to show he had the best hand). That hand still has me shaking my head. It was a huge pot for the size of the game.

Becky hooking up with yet another stiff at the Fish Market

Becky hooking up with yet another stiff at the Fish Market

While I was observing some truly amazing Texas Hold’em rule variations Down Under, Becky took a tour of the Sydney Aquarium. She returned just as I bolted from the table to avoid a second time rake. From Darling Harbor, we decided to visit the Sky Tower for a view of the city that was recommended by a fellow traveler on the harbor ferry.

A hike through the canyon of downtown skyscrapers took us to the base of the Sky Tower. Sydney is very much a multicultural city but there are more than enough particularly buff surfer types looking to be in need of a steroid test and Olivia Newton-John clones to remind you that you are in Australia. Besides that, the surfboard shops seemingly on every other block, remind you that you are in a beach town.

Dave wasn't jealous, though!

Dave wasn't jealous, though. At least that's what he told the cops.

At the base of the elevator of the Sky Tower, we learned that the trip up to the top included admission to “Oz Trek”, whatever that was. Given that the steep admission price (everything seems expensive with the weak dollar), we held some hope that Oz Trek would add some value.

At the top of the elevator, the view of Sydney from its highest point was impressive with the expanse of the city in easy view from the Pacific Ocean to the inner harbor areas. Back down the elevator, we entered Oz Trek. After a brief introduction, the tourists (it quickly became clear that no self respecting local would be here) were herded into the “trek” which was intended to be a primer for tourists on Australia. The first part of the presentation involved three cheesy dioramas only minimally improved from grade school quality. After being released from diorama hell, we headed over to see a multimedia presentation in the motion-controlled seats of the style popularized by Disneyland. Literally anything would

Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge on the way back from Darling Harbor

Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge on the way back from Darling Harbor

be an improvement over the Diorama Hell, but this portion of the presentation strove to make the improvement as incremental as possible. The grainy, large screen video projection was clearly created before the thought of HDTV had crystallized. Seemingly, the primary roles of the motion-controlled seats were to keep you from falling asleep (a natural defense mechanism during this show) and to make sure you are further pushed towards nausea during the “Trek”.

The Opera House at night

The Opera House at night

Oz Trek was one of the 45-minute stretches of one’s life that you wish you had back. In the end, we figured that Oz Trek was added to the end of the Sky Tower thing so someone would visit it. Besides, tacking it onto the end of the Sky Tower visit made it seem like there could some additional value for the price beyond a simple elevator ride to the top of the tower. Fortunately, few Australian citizens seem to visit Oz Trek as any self respecting Aussie would seriously consider giving up their citizenship rights after viewing the show. Perhaps Oz Trek is just a clever ploy to stem illegal immigration in Australia.

Cruise ship in Circular Quay at night

Cruise ship in Circular Quay at night

Afterwards, we headed back to the room, and took a snooze while watching cricket. We like cricket. It reminds us of baseball; only it’s slower and lasts longer. It’s very relaxing to watch. But what the hell are the rules? None of the locals we ask can seem to explain them. And, also, why, when they show the stats for the game, does it remind me of a scientific presentation where the presenter has jammed so many numbers onto one page that the otherwise obvious conclusion (usually different from the presenter’s point of view, by the way) is nearly impossible to sort out?

After our cricket induced unconscious period, we headed out for dinner at Sailor’s Thai Canteen in the Rocks. The meal was excellent, ranking with the best Thai food we have had (OK, that may not be saying a lot). The restaurant is arranged with one long table where the patrons sit side-by-side. This was good for us as we sat next to a Sydneysider regular who gave us a food-oriented scoop on where to go and what to do during our stay during our visit.

The Opera House at dusk

The Opera House at dusk

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