Image via WikipediaA sparse land with not big a populace, Australia is a welcome place for a vacation, especially for those whose second nature is nature itself.
Be enthralled. Be amazed. As the TV ads says, "So what are you waiting for?"
Two sides of Sydney
Pick a side and be pleasantly surprised
"PLEASE walk on the grass!" invites the park sign, with trademark Aussie affability. "Smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds and picnic on the lawns."
This is the kind of comforting welcome you'll get in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, a 30-hectare swathe of greenery alongside the harbour, bordering both the downtown and the iconic Opera House. As for roses, trees and birds, you'll see plenty. Sometimes, hundreds of white cockatoos fill a single tree.
The Gardens make for that sort of green, quiet respite you may need, given the frantic, fun-loving pace of a city visit Down Under.
For the traveller who has already checked off the trademark tourist tasks: Gawked at the view from atop Sydney Harbour Bridge, snapped requisite shots of the Opera House, stood nose to nose with sharks in the Sydney Aquarium and bared (or ogled) bikinis at Bondi Beach, the time comes to look for other, less well-trodden paths in the city.
Just a short stroll from The Gardens and not far past the Opera House, you'll find The Rocks, a pocket of historic Sydney which narrowly escaped the wrecking ball last century and was gentrified instead. This area of former warehouses and residences is now a vibrant stretch of restaurants, shops and pubs (two with competing claims of being the oldest in Sydney.)
Weekends are good for open-air markets - starting with the Farmer's market on Fridays, where food stalls boast an array of local delicacies, from barbecued salmon to lamb kebabs and paella. On Saturdays and Sundays, more than 200 stalls exhibit everything from housewares and linen to pottery and jewellery, along with plenty of good eats.
Oh yes, and the views of Harbour Bridge are spectacular.
On the other side of The Gardens, just up the hill, you'll find a seamier if no less vivid side of Sydney life. This is King's Cross, the city's de facto Red Light district. It's not for everyone, but most tourists wander through it at some point, if only to see how another side of Sydney lives.
King's Cross is also the centre for budget accommodation in the city. Some sections, like Pott's Point, have gone positively upscale in recent years. Trendy cafes have also sprung up between the naughty bits, attracting a more wholesome sort of clientele. You'll still want to be on your guard, however, and touts outside the adult clubs can be particularly annoying.
Like much of Australia, Sydney has a raw and youthful energy about it. Visitors will find it easy to get caught up in the action on both sides of the park. Just don't forget to stop and smell the roses along the way.
April in Sydney
Darling Harbour Hoopla, April 2 to 5 (Free)
An open-air showcase of acrobats, jugglers, buskers and comedians performing at Australia's annual circus and street theatre festival.
Winter Fashion Showcase at The Rocks Markets, April 17 and 18 (Free)
Not quite seasonal wear for Singaporeans, but check out the latest avant-garde winter collections on sale at The Rocks.
The Sydney Comedy Festival, April 19 to May 9
A gaggle of international stand-up performances descend on Sydney for a few chortling weeks. Tickets, and myriad other events, available at www.whatsoninsydney.com.au.
Traken from TODAYonline | Travel | Two sides of Sydney
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