Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas in Australia

This year I decided to spend the holidays Down Under as I have a couple of friends living in Sydney and have always wanted to see Australia. The flight to Sydney from Bali is only 6 hours, which is much more reasonable than trying to fly back to the US for Christmas. The trade off is that I didn’t get to see my family, but I hope they know they’re invited to come visit me in Indonesia any time!

Courtney and I met up with Stephanie at the airport where our trip started off with a blessing in disguise. Our JetStar flight from Denpasar was cancelled and we weren’t able to fly out until the next day. We were slightly annoyed at having to miss a day of our Australia trip, but we quickly cheered up when we discovered that JetStar was putting us up in a posh luxury resort for the night. After spending the next day swimming idly in the gigantic swimming pool and eating our free gourmet meals, we finally set off for Sydney.

Sydney was a wonderful, restorative break from life in Indonesia. My friend Nat gave us a funny look when we arrived at the house and asked right away if it was OK to drink the water. Of course it’s OK to drink the water in Sydney. Imagine that. We walked around Nat’s Balmain neighborhood and marveled at everything from the sidewalks to the nice comfortable temperatures to the beautiful harbor views. We decided that Sydney might possibly be the perfect city.

Instead of doing the usual touristy things one does in Sydney, we mostly used our time to do normal everyday type things that we can’t do in Indo. (Kudos to Steph who got out and about a bit more than Courtney and I did). We spent many happy hours at the house Nat was house-sitting just lounging around using the high-speed wireless, taking hot showers, talking over tea, eating Nat’s yummy food and dozing off while listening to Christmas carols. Court and I also detoxed and beautified by getting facials, mani-pedis and new haircuts while Nat, Steph and I spent another lazy rainy afternoon browsing bookstores in Glebe and lingering in a comfy fair trade coffee shop. All three of us also stocked up on essentials like clothes, make-up, toiletries and other hard-to-buy-in-Indo items.

One night we tried out a wood-fired pizza place in Nat’s neighborhood that had best pizza I’ve had in the last four months. The place was run by a couple of Italian guys who charmed us with their lovely over-the-top Italian welcome. The place was still empty when we strolled up in the late afternoon. When we asked if they were open the answer was, “For four beautiful women we are always open!” This was our kind of place! The wine and espresso flowed - quite literally, as I knocked my espresso over in my enthusiasm for the phenomenal tiramisu we had for dessert.

We continued our hedonistic holiday with a short trip to the Hunter Valley wine country. Wine is very hard to come by in Indonesia, especially in Gorontalo. We therefore promptly signed ourselves up for a full-day wine tasting tour of the Valley, with visions of endless glasses of Semillon and Shiraz dancing in our heads. Out of the four vineyards we stopped at, including the well-known Rosemount, my favorite was a boutique vineyard called Savannah Estate. Here, each wine tasted better than the last and I immediately checked off three to buy later - a sparkling pink moscato that would be lovely with brunch, a sweet dessert wine called Botrytis Semillon, and finally, a dark, sweet muscat that the man behind the counter said paired well with chocolate. To prove his point, he passed around a container of dark chocolate pieces and advised us to first take a sip of the muscat and then eat the chocolate. Exquisite.

On my last full day in Sydney, we finally made it to the beach. We took a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach – an iconic Australian beach full of sunbathers and surfers. However, I wasn’t interested in sunbathing or surfing; I was on a mission to swim in my first Australian rock pool. Ever since my sister sent me a link to a New York Times article about Australian rock pools a couple of years ago, we have both been obsessed with them. So, we walked past all the sunbathers and surfers, rounded the corner and came upon a little cove with a small pool nestled against the rocks. The pool was tiny and nothing like the pools I had envisioned, but it was still fun. Even more fun, however, was swimming in the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve right next to the pool. The cool but crystal clear water was full of interesting aquatic life and I happily paddled around for an hour or so looking at the pink rocks, kelp, purple sea urchins, a sparsely-spotted singaree and even a big blue grouper!

After a mere nine days of comfort, vices and pampering, it was time to return to Indonesia. Court and Steph stayed on in Australia and headed out to Uluru (or Ayer’s Rock) for another four days while I headed back to Indo to go diving. It was a hard choice to make – four more days in the Outback or three days of diving off Bunaken, the diving capital of Indonesia. I chose to go to Bunaken, but I hope to return to Australia someday soon. There are so many more rock pools to discover…


  1. We must go rock-pool hopping! <3

  2. Now this sounds like an excellent vacation from the real world. I'm glad you went!