Day One (8-1-2014 Friday)
We left home to start our journey halfway across the world in the afternoon. However, United Airlines’ flights always seem to be delayed, so departure was not until the evening. Our seats were separated going to Los Angeles, but the nice lady next to us offered to switch. That was a great way to start the trip.
Last time on our trip to Alaska, we noticed that United Airlines doesn’t pass out free snacks anymore, so we brought our own instead. Also, the kids played on their video games during the flight. Before the aircraft landed, a flight attendant gave the kids wing pins again. It must be United Airlines’ public relations tactic. When we got to Los Angeles LAX, it was past midnight our time already.
Day Two (8-2-2014 Saturday)
At the Los Angeles International Airport, we had to get to the “International Terminal”, which meant taking a bus. After about 30 dreadful minutes, Bus A finally showed up. After the ride, we walked to Qantas to get our boarding pass. Each carry-on needs to weigh less than 7 kg, so we had to check in 3 more carry-ons to make it a total of 5 checked bags. The security checkpoint was rather quick. You don’t have to take off your shoes or your jacket.
Finally, we got to the gate. It was a rush, but we made it. The boarding was delayed for 20 minutes. We caught our breath and because of the kids, we got to board as priority passengers. The kids got drawing kits from a flight attendant to keep them busy. For supper, I had Masaman beef with coriander rice. It was the best meal I have ever had on an airplane. The kids didn’t get to play video games but we all took a good couple hours of rest. When I checked the time, nearly 7 hours had passed, halfway to go.
Day Three (8-3-2014 Sunday)
After the long plane ride, we took a taxi to our destination and took a little rest. Then we had Chinese at a restaurant downstairs.
We also did a little shopping in Woolworths and bought kangaroo steak.
Does this look familiar to you?
There were many people from Asia and the Middle East living in Auburn. They can live and have a good life without even speaking or knowing any English.
During the night I was woken up by all sorts of sounds; I heard trains passing by, garbage trucks picking up rubbish, and even birds who chirped like people.
Day Four (8-4-2014 Monday)
In the morning, we took a train to downtown Sydney.
We saw the Sydney Opera house, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and a Chinese garden. For lunch, we ate at a Xi’an style cuisine restaurant in Chinatown.
Day Five (8-5-2014 Tuesday)
Today, we recuperated from yesterday’s activities.
I found out that Black Chia Seeds and Rice Bran Oil are healthy food choices. So I “Googled” them and found that they were available on Amazon for a higher price than in Oz. Then, Google sensed my location and changed to “Google Australia”, with Australia as the subtitle.
After, we ate dinner at a club that’s five minutes away from where we stayed.
Day Six (8-6-2014 Wednesday)
On Wednesday, we joined a Port Stephens One Day Bus Tour.
The first stop was the Australian Reptile Park.
After the zoo, we went to Anna Bay, which is a 2 hours driving distance north of Sydney and part of Port Stephens. There, we got on a huge bus that drove on the sand to help get us to the sand dunes. The big dunes were tall and steep. It was hard work to climb up to the top. Once I was there, I was reluctant to slide down due to fear. I waited until the rest of the gang did it. Finally, I decided to give it a try. I laid the board down near the edge, sat on the back of the board, and bent my legs in front of me. My hands were behind me at a 45-degree angle on the sand. They work as a break. When I started to slide down, I submitted to gravity and grabbed on to the sand. The experience was exhilarating.
The tour guide drove us to Nelson Bay of Port Stephens for a dolphin watching tour. It also came with a buffet. The food wasn’t great but kept us from being hungry.
The last stop was a winery. We bought two bottles of iced wine for $35 AUD, which was cheaper than at the duty-free shop in Canada that cost $20+ CAD per bottle.
The drawback of joining the tour is that you have no control over what to spend your time on, and there might be great sightseeing places that you miss because it’s not part of the program. I always felt on the run due to the time crunch, even when eating meals. The advantage was that you don’t need to plan, drive, etc.
Day Seven (8-7-2014 Thursday)
Today, we rested and took the kids to a park nearby. It was actually nothing more than a little playground, and no one was there but us. The three of them threw frisbees and boomerangs.
For supper, I stir-fried kangaroo steak with green onion. The main consent was that the kangaroo tasted like beef…
Milk is cheaper than bottled water at $1 AUD/liter. We bought a2 organic milk, A.K.A. “the no diarrhea milk”. It tasted much better than skim milk. Local research confirms that a2 protein is easier on people’s digestive systems than a1 protein. However, it costs more for a2 milk.
Aussie uses the metric system instead of the US Customary measuring system. To compare the prices, we needed to do a conversion (Ugh, more math). 1 gallon is 3.79 liters and 1 pound is 0.45 kilograms.
Day Eight to Day Twelve (8-8-2014 Friday to 8-12-2014 Tuesday)
More tours, yay! This one was a Five Day Four Night Bus Tour that covered Gold Coast, Great Barrier Reef, and Brisbane from 8-8-2014 to 8-13-2014. The trip traveled about 3,000 km round trip.
- Day Eight (8-8-2014 Friday)
It’s more than 14 hours from Sydney to Gold Coast. We had four rest stops along the way. The first stop was at Hungry Jack, which is a precursor of Burger King in the US. Second stop was for lunch at KFC. A banana statue was third stop. We took pictures of the giant banana. The last rest stop was at Woodburn. It had a factory that employed 38 people to collect sugar from sugar cane.
We ate dinner at a restaurant in Gold Coast. The steamed fish was very fresh and tasty. For the night, we stayed at Watermark hotel. Breakfast was included, but no free WiFi though. At breakfast, I encountered a new fruit called Mangosteens. You eat the seeds inside of it just like a kiwi. The population in Gold Coast is about 700,000 and the tourist population every year is about 7,000,000.
- Day Nine (8-9-2014 Saturday)
After breakfast, we went to the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary. The admission included lorikeet feeding, pictures with koalas, and kangaroo feeding.
Next, we went to Paradise Country farm. There was an Aussie tea show, stock horse show, shepherd dog show, and a sheep shearing show. I also bought 6 individual containers of placenta cream for $45 AUD.
Then we went to WB Movie World and spent 4 hours there. The WB Movie World is sort of like Disney World but on a much smaller scale.
After dinner at Brisbane, the driver drove us to a little town to join the Great Barrier Reef cruise next morning. He did warn us that there are chances the cruise could be canceled due to the weather or large waves. He said it happened about 30% of the time. When we got to a motel nearby, it was midnight already. We were too tired to shower before we hit the sack.
- Day Ten (8-10-2014 Sunday)
We got up early on Sunday because the bus driver would drive us another 45 minutes to join the Great Barrier Reef cruise in the town of 1770. The driver didn’t get a call from the cruise, which was a good sign.
It was our lucky day. We boarded the double-decker boat, “Lady Musgrave”, for the Great Barrier Reef cruise. This was the first time I was on rough seas. We didn’t even try the morning tea that’s included in the cruise. Most of us threw up.
Adventurer Jr. and II did snorkeling in the morning while we were enjoying the view and keeping an eye on them. Adventurer Jr. took some good videos of the reef with an underwater camera. The water was so cold that Adventurer Jr. was shivering.
After, we had a buffet. The lunch break was very short. I ended up wasting good fresh food because I didn’t have much time to finish.
Next, we boarded a glass bottom boat to Lady Musgrave Island for a 40 minute guided nature walk through the Pisonia forest. Right after we set foot on the Island, we got a serious warning from our tour guide to not touch any cone-shaped shell. The crab inside could stop your heart with its bite, and the nearest hospital was 3 hours away.
We saw many trees and some birds. But many more birds were nesting there in summer as we were told. No one can live on this island, although camping is allowed for a limited time.
We saw many corals from the bottom view glass of the boat on our way back to the pontoon.
After we arrived back to the port of 1770, it was 5 PM already. We had dinner at a restaurant in Bundaberg. It was a rather small restaurant, but the food was decent. Then tour guide drove us back to the Watermark Hotel in Gold Coast.
- Day Eleven (8-11-2014 Monday)
First, we went to a crab catching cruise in the morning.
- Catching yeti crab and little lobsters as bait for fishing
- The kids tried fishing. Even though they didn’t catch a single fish, they had a lot of fun.
- Pelican feeding
- The oyster, mud crabs, and sand crabs were very fresh and tasty. The first oyster was salty though. But my taste buds adjusted to it afterward. Mud crab was a little salty as well. We couldn’t take pictures when eating because we were in a rush again to finish. I had eaten enough crab on this cruise. Oyster, on the other hand, I’d love to eat more later at the Fish Market in Sydney.
Later, we visited King Opal. King Opal is a family owned and operated seller of opal. Adventurer Jr. III was so excited to pick an item for me. He held my hand and walked around the entire display. He was determined to persuade me into buying something. Finally, I gave in and bought a red opal pendant neckless for $180 AUD.
Then we visited Sea World.
We road on a Quack’R’Duck amphibious vehicle before dinner.
We ate dinner at Gold Coast. The tour guide bought us a bottle of wine and another dish to celebrate.
The last event was going to a Rainforest to see glow worms at night. Those special blue glowworms only reside in Oz and New Zealand. I was too tired and opted out to stay at the hotel with Adventurer Jr. III. And it turned out to be a great decision. The rainforest was dark so one could barely see anything. Adventure Jr. and Adventurer Jr. II did see the glowworm though. But they couldn’t take any pictures of the light would kill the glowworms. They concluded that it was a ripoff for the price we paid.
- Day Twelve (8-12-2014 Tuesday)
Today we drove back to Sydney. Everyone wanted to get back home ASAP. No one took any pictures at the same stops when we came. The enthusiasm seemed all gone. Maybe everyone was so tired and overloaded with the activities during the past four days. Everyone went back to the bus before the allotted time for each stop, so we arrived back at Sydney earlier than scheduled.
Day Thirteen (8-13-2014 Wednesday)
Day Fourteen (8-14-2014 Thursday)
More sightseeing in downtown Sydney.
First, we took the train to the Sydney Royal Botanical Garden.
Then we caught a light rail to the Fish Market for lunch. The steamed abalone was very delicious. It was the first time I had abalone. Adventurer Jr. and Adventurer Jr. II were O.K. with abalone, while Adventurer Jr. III loved it. I ate about 18 raw oysters with nothing else but squeezed lemon juice. I didn’t want to have anything fried because nonfresh food could have all sorts of spices added to make it look and taste fresh. We had some fried squid rings, and they were much better than I imaged. We also bought kabobs that had salmon, squid, octopus, and huge shrimp. They were a hit with the kids. And we had half a lobster. Since we had enough fresh yummy crabs on the previous tour, we didn’t need to buy any here.
We sat outside, savoring on delicacies while enjoying the beautiful view and sunshine. I wouldn’t however, eat there every day because the seafood is salty due to the environment they live. It’s good to eat once in a while, more than that would definitely cause health issues for me.
Day Fifteen (8-15-2014 Friday)
I went shopping for UGG boots in the morning: tall black boots with 3 buttons for me cost $140 AUD; slippers for everyone except Adventurer Jr. III cost $60 AUD x 4; kid boots with a fish design for Adventurer Jr. III cost $60 AUD. The total was $440 AUD.
The boots were much cheaper than buying from US. They were made in Australia by Shearers. Shearers is a reputable producer of UGG products in Oz. The UGGs sold in the US were made in China by Decker Outdoor, I believe. At least the two pairs of UGG I bought previously in the US were made in China.
Adventurer Jr. had a fever, so I stayed behind to take care of him while Mr. Adventurer took Adventurer Jr. II and III to the Olympic swimming pool after lunch. They had a blast playing on the water slides and wading in the warm pool.
Day Sixteen (8-16-2014 Saturday)
Saturday was the last day of sightseeing for this trip.
We took a free bus to see cherry blossoms at the Auburn Botanic Gardens.
Then we took the train to a restaurant in Vietnamese town. The Vietnamese town was not small, and it was filled with restaurants and shops. I figure the Vietnamese population is significant in this area.
Day Seventeen (8-17-2014 Sunday)
It started raining today. The weather was gorgeous during our stay. I didn’t mind the rain when we were getting ready to leave, besides Oz needs more rainwater for its lush land. This winter was warmer than usual and rainfall was less.
We spent most of the morning packing.
I bought a pair of dark purple UGG treated lamb water resistant short boots with a clear button for $140 AUD. I also bought a 700-gram king sized Crown lamb wool comforter for $110 AUD in a nearby gift shop at the last minute. What a steal. I’m planning on saving the comforter for Adventurer Jr. when he goes to college.
We checked into a hotel that’s next to the Sydney International Airport in the afternoon since we’d be leaving early next morning. We definitely didn’t want to miss the plane to go home. We were debating whether to visit Bondi Beach in Sydney during our stay. Since it won’t be warm enough to swim, we decided it would be a waste. Guess what we saw after we got into our hotel room? A beautiful picture of Bondi Beach.
We had our dinner at the airport at a place called the Sahara grill that served Turkish food. Mr. Adventurer bought a lamb kabob for me. But they made it too salty. That kind of ruined it. We also had a type of bread called a naan.
Day Eighteen (8-18-2014 Monday)
Today we left Sydney, Oz and arrived at our home on the same day due to the 14 hour time difference.
The hotel we were staying at was within walking distance to the Sydney Internal Airport. To my surprise, it was very quiet for the first half of the night. I actually had some good sleep.
We left the hotel 2 hours early. After going through customs, getting our boarding passes, checking in luggage, going through security, and walking down to the gate, it was time to board already. But there was a delay due to the rain. We departed one hour later than scheduled. The flight from Sydney to Los Angeles was 13 hours. I watched Oscar-winning movies on the plane. The two that I watched in full were the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the “The Devil Wears Prada”, which made the time pass by rather quickly. Then we caught another flight and flew for 4 more hours.
Home sweet home! There’s no place like it. In the backyard garden, I saw plenty of yellow squashes in our vegetable garden, a few peppers, some cucumbers too, and tomatoes.
- Oz is a young country/continent with only 200 years since it was first colonized. Yeah, say that to Israel.
- Big space, few people.
- The population of kangaroos (50-60 million) severely outnumber the population of people (23.24 million).
- There are more than twice as many kangaroos in Australia as there are cattle (28.7 million).
- High taxes (48% on the income over $80,000 AUD).
- The lowest hourly rate is $16.87 AUD. USD to AUD exchange rate is about 1:1. So their poor is making more than double the amount of money per hour than their peers in the US.
- High benefit for seniors and kids.
- There are rewards for giving birth based on income. The first reward is $5000 AUD, but the amount decreases for subsequent children and eventually stops at $800 AUD.
- There are formulae and diaper fees paid to the mom every two weeks from the government in the amount of $200 AUD based on income.
- The north of Sydney is for the wealthy.
- Six states and three territories. The states are as follow: New South Wales (NSW) with Sydney as Capital; Queensland (QLD) with Brisbane as Capital; South Australia (SA) with Adelaide as Capital; Tasmania (TAS) with Hobart as Capital; Victoria (VIC) with Melbourne as Capital; and Western Australia (WA) with Perth as Capital. And the territories: Australian Capital Territory (ACT) with Canberra as Capital; Jervis Bay Territory (JBT) with Jervis Bay Village as the largest settlement; and Northern Territory (NT) with Darwin as Capital.
- Laws in each state regarding Koalas are different. In Sydney one can only touch; in Gold Coast, one can hold.
- Captain James Cook of Britain discovered Australia in 1770 and planted their flag on Oz land, and it became a colony of Britain. However, Australia was first discovered by a Chinese admiral named Zheng He, whose fleets roamed the oceans between 1405 and 1435. The Chinese had the book and integrated map of the world that was published in 1418 to prove it.
- The driver’s seat is on the right side of the car.
- The car drives on the left side of the road.
- Look to the right side of traffic first when crossing a street.
- Public transportation is very developed for getting around Sydney. The train runs 24 hours per day.
- Koalas sleep nearly 20 hours every day.
- There are even structures built for Koalas to cross the road near bridges.
- Burger King is called Hungry Jack instead.
- Australia’s national gemstone is Opal.
- The national animal is the Red Kangaroo.
- The national tree is the Eucalyptus tree.
- Oz is the prime source of Eucalyptus Oil for the world.
- The Eucalyptus trees have no skin and cause wildfires during December and February when it’s summer. It’s one of Australia’s biggest natural disasters.
- There’s a river called Murray-Darling that causes floods every year too.
- The palm tree is of different species from the USA. There are about 2800 species of palm trees around the world.
- Winter isn’t that cold and vegetables still grow in Sydney.
- The car brand of this country is Hornet.
- Seems very safe. There are still many people in downtown Sydney around 10 PM and Auburn.
- Aussie grows sugar canes and bananas.
- The toilets have 2 flush buttons. One is a water saver, the other one is for full water flush.
- Cows and sheep are raised free range. There is plenty of lamb and beef meats, which means they are much cheaper. $8/kg for lamb and they are free range organic. How can you beat that!
- Work hours are 38 hours/week. People get off work @ 2 pm on Fridays. The Australians enjoy life and family more than work. Who doesn’t?
- The national flag is very similar to New Zealand’s flag. The only difference is that it has 6 stars instead of 4.
- Kids go to school @ 9 am and get off @ 2 pm. Do they really learn anything in school?
- We saw many kids at school field trips though at the places we visited.
- Kids all wore school uniforms and shoes.
- There are school buses and volunteers for regulating street crossing for the kids.
- Not many universities, well they don’t have many people, period, what do I expect?
- None of its universities were in the top 500 world universities. Ouch.
- Aussie lobster claw is smaller than Maine lobsters.
- Winter in Sydney is around 15 degrees C and never snows.
- Gold Coast is much warmer but still a little chilly in the night due to the Pacific Ocean.
- Gold Coast is in the northern part of Oz.
- Popular gas stations: BP, Shell, Seven/Eleven, and Caltex.
- Gas is about 1.5 times the price of where I came from in the US.
- Gold Coast was built by the Japanese because of a treaty from WWII.
- Kangaroo means “I don’t know” in the native language.
- They say mate to almost everyone, strangers, their kids, spouses.
- Aussie has an accent.
- G’Day is their way of saying hi. One can tell from that that they enjoy life and are laid back. They seemed don’t have much stress.
- Bottled water costs more than milk. Milk is about $1 AUD per liter. Organic milk costs more than that.
- Seafood costs about half the price as the US.
- The price difference is huge among stores. Woolworths had eggplant listed as about $3.99 AUD/kg, where a store next to it in the same shopping center cost $1.5 AUD less/kg.
- Outback steakhouses are present in Gold Coast.
- Didn’t see many African Aussies in the places we visited. The population consists mainly of Asian, Middle Easterners, and white immigrants. Middle Easterners are the majority in Auburn, west of Sydney.
- New towns are still being built.
- Very strict on tax laws seemed. A person was building a McMansion along the Gold Coast, but he was convicted of tax eviction and sent to prison. He never lived in it after it was completed and it had been sold twice since.
- Saw a big UGG flagship store in Gold Coast. UGG products are popular here. Many people were wearing them.
- Boat docking and upkeep fees are very high. Even if one can buy a boat, they would have trouble keeping it. Which is true in the US as well.
- The ratio of people to sheep is 1:20 which means for every person there’s 20 sheep.
- Saw a church and a synagogue. There’s a church on the Gold Coast that’s mobile which means it can move on the Pacific Ocean.
- Aussies say “return” instead of “round trip”.
- Tomato vs. Tomato.
- Woolworths is like our Super Walmart where you can buy everything you need.
- Aldi is present in Auburn.
- Coles is like our Walmart.
- Officeworks is like our Office Depot.
- a2 milk is purely organic.
- The air quality in Auburn, Sydney and Gold Coast areas are not as clean as my neck of the woods. I was surprised by this finding though.
- The national bird is the Emu. They look like ostriches but they are different species.
- The majority of the tourists we saw were Asian.
- The Aussie Dream is the 3 H’s: House, Hornet and Holiday to enjoy life with family.
- Regarding food, all in all, lamb, beef and jumbo shrimp were much cheaper and they are organic. Jumbo shrimp with head on and shell cost only $20.99 AUD/kg. Nonorganic milk is cheaper as well. As for vegetables, some are organic and some are not. The price of vegetables varies a lot depends on where you buy them.
- Food, day to day living stuff, and housing in Sydney and surrounding areas are much cheaper than our major cities such as NY, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, just to name a few.
- The wild Kangaroos alone are sufficient to provide meat for people for a long time if you know hunting.
- Oz was not affected by the last recession. It had to do with its agricultural, farming and livestock, in my humble opinion.
- Construction should be booming as well since it’s still trying to build new towns and cities, however, it helps if the population grows substantially, of course, to live in those places.
- Houses are very expensive in Gold Coast.
- Oz takes on immigrants from China, the Middle East, and other Asian countries every year to increase its population.
- Would I want to visit Oz again in the future? Nope.
- Would I want to live there for long-term? The answer is definitely a no. Oz is a nice place to visit though. I’ve discovered that I’ve grown very attached to my home here in the US. It’s a privilege and blessing to live in the US. Long live the USA!