Sleeping in a bit late after being deprived of much needed rest earlier in the night, I wanted to get moving pronto to make most of the day. After taking to reception I got a night free for my troubles. I would have preferred sleep instead but a free night never hurts. I went into the day wanting to meet up with a couchsurfer who I met online but my phone couldn’t seem to make local calls. With that being up in the air, I started my day at the Royal Botanical Gardens, located near the Harbour (but then again practically everything is located by the Sydney Harbour). The Gardens lived up to my expectations. At times I felt like I was walking through a more creative and aesthetically pleasing Central Park and other times I swear I was walking though a rainforest. Palm trees are actually quite common in Sydney as well as the Gardens. I toured the Government House nearby, which is home to the governor of New South Wales, and got some Australian history along the way. From there I walked along the Harbour to Macquarie’s Point to get a good view of the famous Opera House. Oddly enough, a boat race was being run in the Harbour, which added the water’s continuous activity. The Harbour is quite a spectacle; it is the heart of Sydney. I took my fair share of photos of the Opera House and then walked over to it to be face to face with this grand architectural masterpiece. Actually standing within sight of the Opera House and even touching it is still hard to believe considering it is one of the most photographed buildings in the entire world. I further explored the area as I walked through the Rocks district and near Darling Harbour before walking along the bridge to get a better view of the Harbour and Opera House. I had planned to walk the entire stretch of the bridge to the less touristy side of Sydney to the north but my hunger got in the way. Being an outrageously expensive city, I had limited food options. At first, I started ducking into convenience stores to find something cheap. At one point, I was ready to walk over to the register to purchase a packaged meal, but I realized that was too pathetic, even for me; there had to be something decent and cheap to eat in Sydney. Chinatown became my new focus. After navigating a sea of Asian pedestrians, I stopped into a food court recommended by my guidebook to get some Asian food. While waiting for my meal to be prepared, a girl that probably realized I looked a bit out of place asked me where I was from. We chatted a short while before she asked me if I wanted to eat with her and her boyfriend. After roaming the city by myself all day, I was more than willing to talk with someone besides myself. We talked about places I had seen and still would like to see during my time here. She recommended that I see Jenolan Caves out near the Blue Mountains. I had read about the caves before but wasn’t sure if I was willing to dedicate the several hours to get there. By the way, the food was a steal; this wasn’t the last time I would be eating in Chinatown. Going our separate ways, I took the train back to my hostel in hopes of charging my phone and getting Wi-Fi to contact the girl I met on Couchsurfing. She asked me if I was interested in getting dinner later in Chinatown. The Wi-Fi began to get spotty so I didn’t get directions until late, much later than she said she planned on meeting. I sent out a quick text to describe what I looked like and sped over there hoping for the best. Luckily, she picked me out when I entered the Filipino restaurant. Sitting down a table with her and a few of her Filipino friends, I began looking at the menu. We talked about the randomness of basically running into each other and about various travel experiences. Without me even realizing it, they ordered a few plates to share. They suggested to me a dish that had pig’s blood in it, which I was game for after eating ‘pudding’ in London. I always say I am willing to try anything but these Filipinos put me to the test. The pig’s blood mixed into a sauce with vinegar over what I can only assume is pork was surprisingly tasty. Frankly, I would be willing to cook the meal myself at home someday. The food got more bizarre from here. In finger-food sized portions came some fattier part of the pig deep-fried with a dipping sauce of you guessed it pig liver. It was interesting…way too fatty for my liking but intriguing nonetheless. For the grand finale, a dish arrived looking like some kind of hash brown mixture colored with spices and some vegetables topped by a sunny side up egg. I wasn’t prepared for breakfast at a Filipino restaurant but it looked worth a go. The one guy at our table broke the news to me; the hash browns were in fact parts of a pig’s face and ears! For a moment, I had to consider what treacherous waters I was about to enter. I joked with them how they do not waste a single inch of the pig; how sadly true that really is. Picking it up with my fork I stared it down. For some weird reason, I actually enjoyed it through the first few bites but I still couldn’t get over the chewiness and the mental picture that came along with it. Satisfied yet disturbed with myself, we left the restaurant to walk over to the Harbour. We were treated to a bit of firework show before I had to leave and, pray to God, get some reasonable amount of sleep before I woke up at 6:15 in the morning to go to the Blue Mountains National Park. Surprise, surprise, no one can seem shut up at this hostel. You have no idea how many times I have wanted to take my pillow and gently suffocate them. Did I just say that? Living off of little sleep will do that to you. Cheers!
Down Under Day 2: Sydney Opera and So Much More