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Stephanie Sees Sydney

Spending time with my family after one year - finally!

My flight arrives from Darwin and my family’s flight from Malaysia. I shuttle through all the Terminals to pick up my family at the International Terminal, T1 by paying around 3 dollars to go by train. What?! Why do we have to pay for travelling to the airport?

As a Malaysian who grew up and spent my 21 years in a tropical country, I am definitely a big fan of cold weather just like a child who always want to experience something new! But things never go as I expected, I bought a jumper from the airport which was my only jumper throughout the whole trip. And it is still not enough to keep myself warm - I struggled, shivered and hopped continuously to gain some heat.

My mum, who is the only one who openly shows her love, hugged me tightly after their touch down. My dad, as a typical Asian dad, never says anything but just a normal greeting. It seems ordinary, but I can always feel his hidden love. And my siblings were busy exploring Sydneysiders and the airport, rather than talking to me. We picked up our hired car and the temporary travel prepaid sim card for them. We went to the Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) to buy some jackets and have our brunch while waiting for our check-in time. Our Airbnb apartment was located in Sydney Olympic Park with an amazing view from 11 floors up. I can see the congested traffic in the bustling city and I swore to myself I will study hard and get a dream job in this crowded city.

The University of Sydney, the oldest university in Australia, has the popular Sandstone University and was ranked in the top 10 most beautiful universities in the world. We spent around 10 minutes to find the Sandstone University because it was blocked by other buildings. After a short walk, the student led us to our destination. It reminds me of my dream university life - cycling, walking and chilling with a group of friends just like in the movie “High School Musical”. Finally, I see the spectacular view of Sandstone University with a broad lawn just like what I have seen from Google! Unfortunately, we could not take a good photo of ourselves as the sky turned dark when we were there. But it is worth paying a visit to! After that, we went to Chinatown to have our dinner. The streets were packed with Chinese, Chinese restaurants, and lots of luxury cars in the basement carpark. I got a famous Malaysian dish, Nasi Lemak in a food court and its taste sucked! Yuck! I told myself I will never visit this stall anymore!

I woke up very early the next morning, took a shower and prepared a nice breakfast together with my family to start a new day. My dad drove us up to Blue Mountain which only takes around 45 minutes from Sydney Olympic Park. I saw many short and cute houses along the mountains. Scenic World, the most popular tourist spot on Blue Mountain, has many high spots to see the world from the top – Skyway, Walkway, Cableway & Railway. The Railway is the steepest incline railway in the world and was my favourite thing there. Trust me, to have the best experience of 90 degrees on the mountain, sitting on the first row in the railway is a must! Lincoln’s Rock, the best place to see the world and superb for a cool photo! I felt so lucky that I was able to see this fascinating view in this fast-developing world. The breathtaking scenery captivated us, but it is also dangerous at the same time if we are not careful. I was about to take a dangerous cliff shot there, but sadly I failed at the end. The wind was sighing and thrashing in the treetops and the boughs moaned. And I was imagining the strong wind would push me down the cliff, so I got cold feet and abandoned the photo.

Thinking of fully immersing yourself into Australian culture? I suggested to my parents to have a barbeque and a beer to end the night. But let me tell you, having a barbeque is the worst thing to do in the cold! It was 3 degrees Celsius and I only had one jumper on me! I could feel the cold lick at my face, creep under my clothes and spread all over my body. With purple lips tinged with blue and gentle chattering teeth, we quickly finish up everything and sit in front of the heater. It was the best thing we could do. Luckily, we still have a good time playing monopoly with my family in front of the heater - warm and nice family bonding time!

On our third day, we had a long drive all the way heading to Canberra to explore the capital of Australia. Compared to Sydney, Canberra is a quiet, less busy city and of course smaller population too! I spotted out the front, the Australia flag on top of Parliament House - also a good spot to take a typical tourist shot. We spent around 10 minutes struggling with the strong wind there. The photo ended up with me having all my hair covering my face with Parliament House behind. We went to Woolworths to buy some bits and pieces for dinner. Can you believe that this is the first time my elder brother has cooked for us in 20 years? It is just a simple spaghetti with Carbonaro sauce and oven baked drumsticks. Simple, yet tasty.

After staying in Canberra for one day & one night, we drive all the way up to Sydney again by passing through Kangaroo Valley. A long drive has never been more enjoyable until in Australia, with patches of green prairie with occasional flocks of cows and sheep and kangaroos which would suddenly pass in front of us. Now I understand why Australians love road tripping! Although we did not do much in Kangaroo Valley, we looked at this valley as the most beautiful valley in Australia! We made a stop when we saw a local family were happily throwing stones beside the river. Their laughter and happiness brought us to also pick a stone and throw it in the river to see how many times the stone can bounce on the surface of the water. 
It seems easy, but we failed to make it skip. My dad and brother were trying to show off their skills but also failed!

After the long drive to Sydney, we were longing to take a good rest, but we had our worst Airbnb experience in Lakemba. A house without window blinds, the Wi-Fi wasn’t working, incomplete amenities and dirty fridge with many left over expired foods from the previous tenants. The worst is that free parking available was stated in the description, but we actually had to park in the Woolworths parking lot nearby which meant we 
had to pay around $30 per night and we were staying for three nights.

Kangaroos and koala bears are the iconic animals in Australia and something that we could not miss! A 45 minutes’ drive from our Airbnb to Taronga Zoo and we could barely find an empty carpark. The zoo is extremely bigger than I thought and we spent almost 7 hours there. Sadly, I could not touch the kangaroos or hug the koala bears! We then went to Vivid Light Festival. It was a pretty laid-back event, everyone was enjoying the light and music shows along the way to Opera House. The Festival was surrounding the Darling Harbour Bridge and the most iconic building of Australia; the Sydney Opera House. After studying in Australia for one and a half years, I finally visit Opera House! I always wanted to visit this building because it is the sign of modernity in Australia. I used to hate history, but surprisingly I love the history of this building.
On our last day, we did not have a packed schedule. Instead, we enjoyed the fresh seafood at Sydney Fish Market and cherished the remaining hours together before their departure. Now, oysters. I would not forgive myself for coming to the fish market without having some oysters. However, beware of seagulls! The seagulls are horrendous here and they would, literally, snap your food away from you! Make sure you keep an eye on your food or cover it when you are not watching it.

At the airport, again, only my mum hugged me and kept telling me to take good care of myself before departing. It was heartbreaking when I saw my youngest sister cry and keep looking back at me. I couldn’t do anything, but watch them walk away from me and enter the boarding gate. 

It was a short yet memorable trip and also the first trip that actually bound us together as a family. People always do not appreciate the time spent together until they have been separated. Studying abroad has meant we all cherish this brief trip more and have only recently realised that it is not easy for us to be together.

- Stephanie
Stephanie is an IHD resident studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts and Industries (Communication). She has a flair for fashion, fun and meeting new people.