If you ever happen to be driving from Sydney to Melbourne (or visa versa — or looking for a day-trip from either), Glenrowan, the location of Ned Kelly’s final standoff with police, is a must see. If you’ve never heard of him, Edward “Ned” Kelly (1854 – 1880) is a central figure in Australia’s ideology of self.
At a relatively young age he became one of Australia’s last, and still to this day best known Bushrangers; he was also a cop killer, and ultimately the leader of his own gang — although he’s best known for inventing a suit of bulletproof armor to wear during a shoot-out with police.
I actually came here twice, the first time was only about a month after my massive concussion which was so sever it dislocated my jaw and took a good year to actually heal from; at that time between the heat of the day (which drained me), and my very limited energy to begin with (just sitting in a moving vehicle was a mental strain) we didn’t actually get to see much… as I discovered upon writing up this blog post the first time (in early 2018) — I had in fact missed a LOT (which made me VERY sad).
Can you believe I missed THIS the first time… THIS!!! And here’s how very much OUT of it I was… we were not 100 feet away from it and I DID NOT notice it. It was directly in our line of sight, I’m shitting you NOT, and I did not SEE it… WHAT THE FUCK!!! But that tells you JUST how out of it I was by the end of our first visit.
The second time was almost a full year later, the weather was MUCH cooler and I wasn’t sick… so we saw must of the things we missed, except for THIS attraction, which I wanted to see… to compare it to things like the Battles For Chattanooga attraction …. but which my travel buddy is as a matter of course NOT game for things of this sort (I would have had to pay for his ticket for him to be willing to do it… which I was NOT game for).
Before ever coming to Australia, every book that I read on Aussie history that covered the settlement of the non-Sydney parts of the country talked about him (yes, I’m THAT sort of traveler, I read in advance), and he’s about to have the 11th movie about him go into production in the coming months (and if you move very quickly, you could be in it). [This part was written a year ago, I’m afraid it’s currently in post-production and it should be released soon].
The first time I came here my travel partner on this trip and I were driving from Melbourne to Sydney (it was a really pretty day…)
When we passed this sign, which he felt was really funny, and a good example of Australian humor (that an official sign would look like this)… I didn’t get the joke then, I still don’t. The area is famous for two things, wine and Ned Kelly, and that helmet says “Ned Kelly” to any Australian who knows his story… which is pretty much all of them.
Anyway, he explained that it kind of looks like Ned Kelly is holding up a wine bottle… and that we were about to drive by the town of Ned Kelly a famous bushranger, and then he started to explain to me who he was. I stopped him and told him that not only did I already know… I had read about him in two different Australian history books, but that I was also about midway through a book devoted to his story (that had won the very prestigious Booker Prize), and could we please stop because I would really like to see the place… and anyways we needed to have lunch. So we stopped here, at Billy Tea Rooms
I had the “house made Pikelets” in large part because it would be something new (I learned while researching for this piece that they are Welshin origin, and are often referred to as the ‘poor man’s crumpet’) but upon eating them, they tasted indistinguishable from pancakes — just small ones. I also had the pumpkin soup (which in Australia is served savory with a lot of pepper… never sweet, the way it is in the US) and a cup of tea …
Then we went to the museum dedicated to Ned Kelly’s story. So I already knew from the book I was reading that when Ned was very young, he became the town hero by saving the life of the son of one of the richest families in town (who almost drowned). As a reward Ned was gifted by the father with a purple sash. You’d think since the kid he saved was very rich and Ned’s family very poor it would have been something more tangible, but it wasn’t… which in my mind almost makes it a symbol of the inequality with which Irish immigrants were treated …
That said, the sash was deeply meaningful to Ned (supposedly the finest piece of cloth he’d ever felt in his young life) and was such a treasured possession that he chose to wear it under his metal armor on the day when he knew he would be facing impossible odds, and might well die — some 20 years later.
Mrs. Kelly, Ned’s elderly mother was a major element in his life. Ultimately she was arrested and thrown in prison, unjustly, as a way to capture Ned. He fought to have her freed, including writing a manifesto letter that he tried unsuccessfully to have printed, intended to make people aware of the injustice. But he failed, all that was printed were annotated summaries that distorted it’s meaning in a way that made the government look good and Ned look bad.
What happened is long and complicated, but the part that all Australians remember was the final showdown where he wore the armor, that he believed would protect him for the bullets of the police — and its as common a symbol to them as a bell with a crack in it screams Liberty Bell to Americans.
but was ultimately his plan failed, he was seriously wounded instead of killed, and as such he was captured, so that instead of dying while defending himself, he was taken to the gallows.
Inside the museum were a large collection of collected objects about Ned or his family, including a selection of items that were supposedly owned by them. My friend and travel buddy, was overwhelmed by seeing a plate that supposedly had belonged to Ned’s sister. As a child, my friend had learned about Ned in part by reading a book written from Ned’s sister’s point of view… so seeing something as simple as a plate, that she had actually owned, was a deeply emotional experience for him.
Behind the museum was a reconstruction(!!!) of the Kelly Homestead, filled with the sorts of items they were known to have owned. The actual homestead is located about 9km away from Glenrowan and still owned by the Kelly family, and is NOT open to the public. That said, I remembered reading in the book about the walls covered in newspaper, so it was interesting to see it here… I have no idea how realistic this reconstruction might be.
Behind the house were some pet Cockatoos, pictured here because they’re cute
On our 2nd visit to this place we didn’t redo any of our previous visits, but instead tried to see all the stuff we’d missed the first time. Firstly, we approached the town from the other side of the railroad… which is where Ned Kelly’s standoff with the police actually happened in 1880… to find signposts explaining the history laid out around the town in the order of where various events had occurred, that you could follow around… the first one we found being #4, the site of Ned’s capture (which was clearly shown on our google maps when driving here)
Possibly because his capture was something police take pride in, in 1885 the town built a new police station directly adjacent to the location of the stand-off, as a “Look at how Good we are at our job, don’t fuck with us statement.” (Let’s forget the fact that Ned was entirely outgunned, and the only reason they caught him was he was too honorable to leave those he held near and dear behind to face their wrath at NOT catching him.)
Not far from where he was ultimately captured, we found location #1, a piece of land where the Glenrowan Inn had once stood (where Ned had taken hostages while waiting for a large group of police that were coming to get him by rail) .
Kiddy corner from the Inn was location #2, where the 35 police who ultimately arrived took up position, protected by some trees
#4 and #5 I already showed, (where he hunkered down while putting on his metal armor and shooting at the police, and then where he was finally captured)…. but somehow I managed to miss taking pictures of location #6… please to forgive me….
I think it involved walking over to where the railway station was, but it had started to rain by that point, so I never got there…. That said, before we went to see locations 1, 2 &3 we had taken the bridge across the railway to A) go to the bathroom (we both really needed to go) and B) pick up some lunch.
The selection of Ned Kelly themed items available for sale amused me
There was the Ned Kelly Tea Towel with his wanted poster printed on it (I was tempted, but they were too heavy to shlep around the world –It’s Feb and I won’t be going back to the States till October; Ned Kelly socks that say “such is life” — purported to be Ned’s last words before they hung him by the neck ….
Ned Kelly soap (???) and of course the obligatory mugs… WHY does EVERYPLACE have mugs? I mean how many mugs can one person reasonably own?
My friend had wanted to go to the same Tea shop we went to last time at the other end of town, but I rejected that, suggesting we try one of the other places… ultimately we got sandwiches from the bakery shop (they’ve got some deli fixing and you can make the sandwiches up however you want to). My friend had some sort of vegetarian combo, while I had ham & mustard, with beetroot (red beets), black olives and lettuce on whole grain (and hold the butter). Although in retrospect I’m thinking maybe we should have eaten at the Vintage Hall cafe…. anyway…
While there we found location #7….
That said, here’s The Ned Kelley story told in cartoon format:
A trip to Bondi Beach is one of THE things to do if you’re visiting Sydney; for instance, if you look at TripAdvisor’s top things to do while in Sydney, a trip to Bondi is #2 on the list. It’s the nearest/best beachfront neighborhood to downtown Sydney and while the train doesn’t go the whole distance, there’s busses almost every five minutes to take you the rest of the way. That said, this is my SECOND year spending a few weeks in this neighborhood, so I’ve decided to update this post more than a bit, rather than do a 2nd post on the same subject
What most people miss when they come here are all the clues that tell those of us who are MOT “members of the tribe” that this is also one of THE most Jewish neighborhoods in all of Australia. For instance, the fact that almost every seller of Jewelry have stars of David for sale, as well as Chais, and Hamsas. Of course the latter, isn’t really a Jewish item as such, but rather a symbol that has been traced all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia, that is used by all the various religious groups of the area, and is sometimes referred to as either the hand of Fatima (for those who don’t know, the favorite daughter of Muhammad), Mary (Jesus’s mother), Miriam (sister of Moses), or just ‘the goddess’… But of course the evidence goes deeper than that.
This is now my second year of spending a few weeks in Bondi. Like I said in a previous post, the first time I came to Australia it was a fairly last-minute decision. I had contacted my travel buddy, who goes to Sydney (his hometown) almost every year during their summer months (Dec through March) in part so that he can spend Christmas with his mother, but also just to be there. His mother lives in a retirement village in the suburbs, so he opts to stay in an apartment rental in one of his old stomping grounds.
Now granted, on the day when I first arrived I didn’t know this… and my friend isn’t Jewish and was utterly oblivious to stuff like this, so he didn’t know either. Anyway, we took the train from the airport to Bondi Junction, at which point — because my friend seems to like to walk everywhere (even when lugging suitcases) we walked (suitcases in hand) to an eatery called Savta Cafe, which he said was supposed to be good. I was SO tired after my flight that my brain didn’t trigger to the fact that Savta was the Hebrew word for grandmother. That said, the menu made it pretty obvious that this was an Israeli restaurant — something my friend had not realized. I got very excited and ordered the Shakshouka, a dish invented by Tunisian Jews, and pretty common in Israel.
That said, it was not the best I’ve ever eaten (the excessive use of mushrooms confused me) but it was ok… After that we lugged the suitcases to his rented a ‘room in an apartment’ (but not an Airbnb) in an area called Bellevue Hill, right near St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, that is located just west of Bondi beach and just east of the Bondi Junction Train station — [The map refuses to embed, so please check the location via the link].
But ONE Israeli cafe does not a Jewish neighborhood necessarily make. The next hint however was SO in your face that I couldn’t possibly miss the implication. The next day he took me on a walk from our apartment to the beach, and we passed THIS house along the way…
For those who don’t know who this guy is, his name is Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Many of his followers (I am not one) had actually believed that he was THE Moshiach, aka the Messiah, a concept that should not be confused with Jesus/Christ … even if the Chabad-Lubavitch (who can be referred to with either term) are the most Catholic of Jews — a concept to complex to explain here… at least until Schneerson died.
To tell you how Jewish I am, I’m one step away from Schneerson via more than a few people even though I am NOT one of his followers; most closely of whom was our family friend and cardiologist (until he retired) who was flown in to also be part of Schneerson’s medical team before he died. [Personal story…. Ira came to my father’s funeral. After the service, he took me by the hands, looked me in the eye and told me how sorry he was to have been out-of-town during my fathers final days — and hence unable to help him personally, but told me that he called in regularly, and had heard via the nurses and doctors at the hospital how I had been at my father’s side every day from his admittance until he died… and he said to me, “Rebecca, you have raised the bar in terms of how a child should be with a sick parent.” … to this day it is probably one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me, and just thinking about it makes me want to cry. Ira is a real man of G-d, instead of going to synagogue and making himself the center of attention, he spends every sabbath quietly in the hospital, saving lives.]
Anyway, the VERY public display of the Rebbe’s picture on the side of a home (see above) made me realize there must be Lubbavitch in the neighborhood… but what I didn’t realize until I had actually been there a few days and explored the place it was that it was ALSO spitting distance from The Central Synagogue, which is a modern orthodox congregation
AND Adath Yisroel Congregation / Tzemach Tzedek … (when looking at these maps, please note all the OTHER Jewish institutions that Google popped, assuming they were also of interest to me, when I searched the synagogues’ names
AND The Sephardi Synagogue
AND an easy walking distance from the Chabad-Lubavitch House
In fact, there turned out to be about EIGHT … EIGHT synagogues all within an easy walking distance of our apartment!!!! (Not to mention a bunch of other Jewish institutions)…. For those who are not Jewish, in all of Orlando Florida, I think there are maybe four synagogues scattered throughout the entire metropolitan area… miles apart (driving distance). Only THE MOST orthodox of Jewish neighborhoods, the ones where there are all sorts of guys walking around dressed like Jews (which MOST Jews do not do) … have this many synagogues so close together…. (Orthodox Jews aren’t supposed to be exerting themselves on sabbath — day of rest — and they can’t ride on cars, busses, or horses either for that matter …so they have to live an easy walking distance of their temples … which made it easy for the Nazi’s to round them up… but that’s a different issue.) Speaking of my oblivious travel buddy… by the end of our few weeks in Bundi (a please he’d been to a thousand times before) I was finally able to teach him how to identify orthodox Jews by their tell tale clothing choices.
The next thing I discovered in Bondi there were actually quite a few Israeli restaurants, alongside Turkish and other middle eastern ones, which are also popular in the area.
The above restaurant is, Sabbaba (Hebrew slang, derived from the Arabic word tzababa, meaning “cool”, “great” or “ok”)– which not only had a COMPLETELY authentic Israeli style falafel sandwich, but the manager was Israeli (I spoke Hebrew with him) and they were serving MALT STAR (a non alcoholic beer that is almost ubiquitous in Israel) to wash it down with!! (As it should be!) This turned out to be a local chain (there are a three of them scattered around Sydney,) but based on my experience the only one that had the Malt Star was in Bondi … which says something about this outlet’s clientele
About a block or so away from that I found a third Israeli place, called Lyfe Cafe (Life with a Y, again, think of the Jewish Chai symbol) again the owner was an Israeli (again, I spoke Hebrew with them) and I also tried their Shakshouka — a bit better than the last place, but still not “up to snuff” in my opinion.
While eating at Sabbaba the first time, I spotted a Kosher butcher, called, “Hadassa Kosher Butchery PTY Ltd” located RIGHT across the street from them, which I later learned was an ALL Kosher butcher, that cuts it’s own meat, while serving the diverse clientele that lives in Boni.
and just a shop or two down the street from that I found “Golds World of Judaica” where I ended up spending a few hundred dollars on Jewish/Australian souvenirs to give as gifts to friends, and of course for myself…
Specifically they had fusion Jewish/Aboriginal Australian items, like the above kippot (about $18 USD each… over two years I think I bought about 16 of them, because everyone I had given one to GREATLY appreciated them), as well as Challah Covers.
During the few weeks I spent in Bondi on my visit a year late I came across Katzy’s Food World, which I didn’t realize was a Kosher restaurant till I got inside, located sort of Kiddy corner from Sabbaba.
This is a fleishig, or meat restaurant — note the chicken, burgers, and the ‘Ruben’ sandwich with no Swiss cheese and mayo instead of Russian dressing (WTF PEOPLE!!! THAT IS NOT A RUBEN!!!) on the menu?
When I was there, trying to decide what to eat, the girl working behind the counter told me that Katz’s for instance is FAMOUS for the Aussie meat pies — which is sort of a laughable statement if you understand it, in large part because its one of the VERY few places in the whole country that has Aussie meat pies made with Kosher meat, in a kosher kitchen… and hence if you keep kosher and want to try an Aussie meat pie… this is most likely where got it. (They even serve sausage rolls… which I have a feeling are more ‘pigs in a blanket’, i.e., all beef hotdogs in pastry… than sausage rolls, because there’s no such thing as kosher pork.)
because of the dietary restriction of mixing meat with milk Kosher restaurants tend to serve one or the other but rarely both… Falafel falls into the parve category, being never meat more milk. The mom in the above picture is clearly just back from taking her kids to the beach. From what was happening, it was clear the kids had been given ice cream while there (milk) and she wanted to get them a mid-afternoon snack but it couldn’t be meat because not enough hours had passed since they’d eaten the milk meal (seriously… there are rules to ensure that the meat and milk don’t even combine in your belly.)
IF an Israeli restaurant is Kosher (which is NOT a given) then it will have falafel and meat, falafel and cheese, but not both…. Sabbaba has both and as such while it’s Jewish/Israeli it is NOT someplace the Jews who keep Kosher would eat at…. if you ever go to Israel you’ll quickly notice that NOT all the food served there is Kosher… if it is there’s be a big sign over the door advertising the fact in no uncertain terms.
While at Katz’s I tried their Matzah ball soup. It was ok… my father made better. The “trick” to REALLY good chicken soup is you boil the WHOLE chicken, feet, beak and all, which this place did not do. If you don’t add those ingredients, the soup tends to have a sort of weak flavor and consistency. The feet are what provides pectin, and also a sort of super saturated chicken flavor. Today… when most grocery stores don’t even have the feet to sell you… folks rely on bullion cubes to provide them with that flavor — because they’ve forgotten what it was about grandma’s soup that made it just, better.
Finally, Not only did I find Krinsky’s, the larges kosher grocery store in Sydney (its the size of a small Kosher market in Chicago), during my 2nd visit, but up in the mall next to Bondi Junction, there are three different supermarkets, and in one of them I found an absolutely MASSIVE (for a non-kosher market) kosher section
Back in late April of 2012 I did a very brief bucket list trip to experience first hand some of the temples of the (once hidden within the jungle) capital city of Angkor (or Yaśodharapura}, from the time of the Khmer/Angkor Empire (802-1431 AD) near the modern city, popular tourist destination of Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrived the evening of April 23 and left on the night of the 26th… so essentially only three days. I’m posting about it now– using the notes I wrote on my Facebook account at the time to remind myself … because, to be honest… I seriously doubt I’ll ever be able to do this trip a 2nd time.
I went there with my Canadian work colleague — the one whose home, in Mill Bay Vancouver Island, I visited in June 2016. We shared an office in the Business school’s Marketing department for the entire time I taught at Kyung Hee University in Seoul South Korea… and took this trip together over the course of an extended weekend — I’m vague on it at the moment, but I think it may have been the period given to students to prepare for their midterm exams.
Normally, this blog site will only cover trips from 2015 and later… or will reference back to previous trips because of more recent ones I’d just done (like the Halloween at Three Disney Parks post, or the one regarding Stubby Henge in Rolla, Missouri, where I compared it to the henge it mirrors back in England, visited in 2014)… But this was sort of a special case and the need to post about it has been plaguing me for a while now.
IF I were to go again, it would only be if I could stay there for like three weeks or longer, which is not something I would be willing to do as a woman traveling alone. So it would mean having to find a friend willing to go with me, and to spend that long leisurely exploring the sites together. This could of course happen, I’m just not sanguine about it…. so I’ve decided I sort of HAVE to document that trip (from SIX years ago) as best as I can remember it at this point… just for the heck of it.
So, let’s get started.
First off… Siem Reap’s Airport, was TINY!! The image below was NOT from the parking lot, as you might imagine, but was rather taken from the edge of the tarmac!
(Don’t worry, the plum-colored shirt I’m wearing has the consistency of mosquito netting… utterly transparent up close, but helps keep the little malaria carriers at bay.
The building was only one story tall, so it’s of the type of airport where they bring stairs to the plane, which is about as tall as the building itself… and then you have to walk over to the building…
As you can probably tell, we were able to get a direct non-stop flight from Korea to Siem-Reap airport. [One of the things we discovered while there is that Korean pretty much dominate a segment of the tourism trade there, and are disliked by the Cambodians because their businesses are insular — creating very little profit for the locals]. Passport control for all incoming flights is one tiny room…. and then you’re out.
Inside was easily the cutest nicest passport processing area I’d ever seen, replete with what I, in-retrospect, learned to recognize as re-creations of the Angkor Wat statues that decorate most of the hotels and such around town (at the time I was a bit worried they might be originals, but they looked too shiny and clean). These are usually made by handicapped artists — often folks who survived stepping on land mines — from a training place located near our hotel (see images of that later).
The whole building was very new, and very spotless. The Cambodian government has clearly been convinced of the benefits of tourism to its economy, and has invested likewise — probably with some help from UNESCO grants (but I was guessing).
This was the North Gate bridge entrance to the Angor Thom temple complex (I know this only by searching Google maps for photos, and this location was distinct), which was the first place of many that we visited on the first day, with my friend/office mate and our tour guide for the day – who I am still Facebook friends with almost six years later (I’m putting up his link so if you go there and want a good guide… hire him). He had been an English lit major in university (and as such spoke English impressively well) but had to leave because his wife started to have health issues and he needed to earn money
and our Tuk-tuk driver, who had been assigned to us for a whole trip… He picked us up at the airport and was supposed to have dropped us off at the end, but didn’t show up. I’m pretty sure we kind of stunned him cause we treated him like our friend instead of our hired help — only I ultimately think he didn’t trust it was real. We insisted he eat with us at almost every meal (he refused the first time, but then gave in), and treated him when he argued that it was out of his price range;
we introduced him to his first cheese burger and fries [which he enjoyed a lot, although he was wondering where the vegetables were — a slice of tomato and a leaf of lettuce weren’t doing it for him]. During those meals, he shared with us that he had been a street kid after his parents died under the Khmer Rouge (ruled Cambodia 1975 – 1979), [for those unfamiliar with the regime, I suggest you read up about the Killing fields, or see the movie of the same name] but had been pulling himself up by his own bootstraps ever since. His English was very good, all things considered … I no longer remember his name because he never stayed in touch with us….. even though he said he would. AND, I might add, my friend was all ready to send him a box of textbooks on topics he said he’d wanted to study, because he couldn’t really afford to go to school but still wanted to able to study … For those who don’t know… the tuk-tuk, a sort of mechanized update on the rickshaw, is the omnipresent form of taxi in Cambodia — only they’re SO CHEAP that you can afford to rent them by the day, like your personal chauffeur …. MUCH more pleasant
The carvings on the bridge are from Hindu mythology, and represent a serpent that is being used in a sort of epic tug of war, to churn the sea of milk. According to our guide, the process resulted in the birth of many Hindu gods and the dancing nymphs. We saw this sort of image often throughout the temples …. as to the missing heads, sadly, he told us that during the civil war folks would knock off the best ones and sell them on the black market to private collectors.
Something you see all over while traveling around these temples is workmen reconstructing them. On one hand, this is great for tourism… but as an anthropologist, I felt like I was continuously seeing an archeologist’s nightmare in progress. What they’re doing is taking the toppled blocks up from the ground, figuring out where they go and putting them back… so … on one hand, good… on the other… worrisome
Another thing you see is these temples aren’t just tourist destinations, they are still used by the locals for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it gets pretty depressing, a few times we saw mothers who had seriously sick kids and were praying for them… Often the sort of illnesses you just don’t see in affluent societies. One particularly unforgettable example was a baby who seemed to have water on the brain so that the head was the size of a large watermelon on the torso of a baby who looked to be less than a year old.
The cleaning staff is everywhere, constantly cleaning… Again, on one hand an archaeological nightmare, but it made me think of how this must have also been true way back when these temples were in their heyday.
We were worried about this little guy, but it turned out that his mom (one of the cleaning staff) and his FIVE brothers and sisters all weren’t far away… again you saw this a lot, mom’s who were on the cleaning staff brought all their kids with them… often kids who should have been in school.
At this point I have to make an admission… I think at some point before this trip I had ‘neuroticly’ turned off GPS tracking on my phone, and as such, I’m not actually sure WHICH temples the following photos are from… they’re in order… I just can’t specify the specific locations. and there are a lot of little temples along side the big ones that I’m pretty sure they took us to, and I’m only posting what I felt were the best pictures (there were a LOT of pictures)
Our tour-guide, took us off the beaten path around the back of the temples, away from the masses of tourists so that he could share with us one of his favorite things about this place…. the chorus of birds doing jazz rifts in the forest. Also, the trees in these jungles (much of which have been cleared in order to better display the temples) have a beauty to them that’s a bit like modern art
you can’t really see it from this angle but from the side (and looking at it sideways) this lump I’m touching looked like a head and two outstretched arms.
These wild chickens are EVERYWHERE… in case you ever doubted that the domesticated chicken began in Asia and moved west…all you need to do is look at these birds
they’re definitely chickens, but look really skinny, tough and inedible…. and they run very fast. This totally makes sense, think about it… flightless birds that are as slow as our domesticated chickens really do need to be protected from predators in order to survive, while these guys move SO fast… and you have to look hard cause their chicks are almost perfectly camouflaged by the leaves
When it came to the big temples like this one my friend, who is much hardier stock than me — the woman rode her bicycle to work every day while I took a taxi because just the walk up the hill (our University’s business school was at the top of a relatively steep hill) was too much for me.
These orchestras were everywhere, and would switch out every few hours at the same choice locations. All are made up of horribly disfigured amputees, missing limbs, eyes, you name it.
More toppled stones being replaced into the locations they believe they came from, like a giant 3D puzzle.
The hoards, lining up for the obligatory picture on the pedestal… Everyone comes here wanting to take the same picture… in the same place, under the same tree… Also note all the blocks of stone that are on the ground… Those are both the walls and I assume some ceiling bits?
If you look you’ll see that in the background, behind my friend and the guide, are two trees, with one wrapping itself around the one below it…. and killing it.
And when you walk through the doorway around to the other side of the wall you see this… the roots of the killer tree like the tendrils of an alien crushing the buildings….
But again everyone wants their picture in front of it, because its also kind of beautiful. After this our guide took us to a different place, but the Tuk tuk driver needed to stop for fuel first… which turned out to be kind of a horrifying experience….
these are what roadside gas stations look like in Cambodia…. they’re everywhere, loaded up with empty water bottles or such… filled with what looks like lemonade .. but is actually fuel.
As we drove we came across monkeys sitting by the side of the road, my friend and I kept squealing out.. “Baby monkeys!! Baby monkeys!! Baby monkeys!!” Our driver had to be convinced to turn around and let us ogle them… Cambodians see them as annoying pests
For some reason, maybe it was because we’d just seen the monkeys, our guide decided that when we approached Angkor Wat the first time it should be from the back side of the temple, rather than front…
And this is where we saw a representation of the monkey wars… I forget that actual story but after our glee at seeing monkey’s this was where our tour guide took us next
Note!! The Buddhas in this hallway are all missing their heads… Again, they were broken off and sold during the civil war (according to our guide)
When they dug this temple out of the jungle, this building was dense with bats, and the ground deep with bat-shit, which is apparently very acidic. The acid mud when the rain hit it ate away the bottoms of these pillars
Locals poured into here to have a red thread tied around their wrists, and to be blessed by the old man. Our tour guide (who was wearing one) explained that it was sort of Cambodian belief that these red bracelets warded off evil spirits
The detailed caving on this wall depict a massive battle from Hindu belief; the reason it is black and shiny is from so many hands having touched them over the years. As a result, now they try to discourage people from touching the walls because all the acid from their hand is eating away at the stone the same way that bat shit ate away at that pillar
This guy had earlier in the day asked me if I would take a picture for him. Later we ran into him again, and he insisted on buying me a coconut as a thank you, an offer that I quickly took him up on. I had already figured out at lunch that coconuts were going to be my dehydration savior. I was pretty much dying at the time, when our guide suggested I get a coconut water. I slurped the thing down, and my friend said she could see the light coming back into my eyes. I ordered two more and was right as rain and good to go, after having been almost at death’s door not a few minutes before, because of dehydration.
Coconut water is not only sterile to the point where you can use it as IV fluid in a pinch… but it’s better than Gatorade at curing dehydration. He ended up buying them for our whole group (including our guide). Turned out he was a retired cop from a Malay Island we’d never heard of, and was in town for two days just so that he could see Angkor Wat before he died. We agreed that too was why we had come as well, because it was a bucket list item — we then had to explain to him what a bucket list was.
After this, they took us to a silk farm; this group is trying to ensure that the traditional skill of silk production doesn’t disappear (which it almost did after the civil war), and also as a way of trying to keep locals in the rural areas by providing them with gainful employment
I learned that raw silk is actually yellow and is the other part of the shell… while refined silk is white and is the inner part of the silk thread
if you look close you see the individual threads being drawn out
An example of a traditional Cambodian pattern, is present in the stone carvings at the temples… of course they’re taking you here in hopes that you’ll buy some silk. We didn’t.
At the end of our VERY long day, we were taken for an hour-long foot/leg massage, which was included in the cost of the tour… we later discovered that a massage like this in Cambodia only costs about $5. They even offer them in the waiting area in the airport near the duty-free shops (only more expensive).
END of Day ONE
YUP, ALL of that was ONE day… in Cambodia, in April when the average temperature is a whooping 96 F !!!! AND HUMID!!! If I were to try to do all that today in those temps, I’d die!
DAY NUMBER TWO…
On the second day we went to a less visited area where the temples had not yet been “reconstructed” and the difference in what we were looking at was radical. The other places also had stones on the ground, but nowhere near as many. I’m not sure if Angkor Wat and the places we saw the day before — which draw most of the tourists — had when re-discovered simply been in better condition than this or not… and that’s why they’re famous. (As in maybe they weren’t the best temples at the height of the Khmer Empire, but were just the ones who survived best over time).
But consider (images above and below) the state of this building and
note the HUGE difference from the ones I visited yesterday
All HAIL Coconut water… seriously, if you go to Cambodia, this is your dehydration savior. Happily they were sold everywhere. When I first got there I was suspicious but it’s actually the safest thing you can drink. Coconut water is a completely sterile solution till the moment the flesh is pierced… and the women who work these stands are SO good at their jobs that they can whack off the top chunk suck that just a tiny layer of fresh coconut fruit is left covering the top. You poke a straw through that to get at the drink inside…. and if you’ve got a spoon, you can can scrape out the fresh coconut for a snack afterwards.
Like I said before, it was Cambodia, it was HOT and it was humid…. and I have a strong preference for elevators….
My friend however was more than game to climb up the temple steps, while I stayed on the ground and took photos.
These priests were really excited to talk to us. I think most tourists kind of just look at them in awe and don’t get that priestly duty in these countries isn’t any different from say… the two obligatory years of working as a missionary is for Mormons; the only difference being as Buddhists, you can do those two years at almost any age… (I of course know all this because my boyfriend in college was a getting his Ph.D. in Buddhist philosophy) Although most folks chose to do their obligatory service to the religion it at about high-school because it makes it easier to find a good job or a wife if you’ve already done it, the fact is some will even do it when they’re young children
After this, our Tuk-Tuk driver took us to this temple, after asking us first if he could. As I said previously his parents died under the Khmer Rouge… these memorials, which include the actual bones dug up from the killing fields offer a stark reminder to the Cambodians of those times. It marks the location of the one the 20,000 mass grave sites that were uncovered after the end of the regime. To save on ammunition, most of these people were killed via blunt force trauma, hammers, blades, axes, etc.. The location is not just a holocaust spot, but rather doubles as a school and orphanage, so alongside this visual is the sound of children’s laughter.
At the end of the day, after a bit of a rest they took us to a buffet and show (included in the price of the hotel, if you can believe it); we insisted that our Tuk-tuk driver eat with us rather than stay out at the vehicle, which turned out to be a very good thing for us because, and we didn’t know this in advance, until he broke his leg in an accident which resulted in a limp, he had been a dancer at this very show and knew a lot of the dancers.
Apparently, in Cambodia, the hospitals just amputate badly broken legs that require anything more than just being set in cast. That is, of course, unless your family can pay for better care, and as I said previously he’d been a street orphan. So instead of going to a hospital for care, he’d had gone to the priests who did NOT amputate, but now one leg was a bit shorter than the other.
We had to get to bed a bit early that night, because our next morning was going to start very early. We were going to do the obligatory “sunrise over Angkor Wat” — a trip that was also included in the price of the hotel room.
For me, part of the fun was watching the hordes of tourists, all taking photos where if you adjusted your exposure right, it almost looked like you were there by yourself, watching it…
only you weren’t you wee surrounded by hundreds of people (and keep in mind this was the off season) watching the same thing….
I don’t even want to think about the crush would be like at the height of Siem Reap’s season.
One of the omni present features of the temples is the mass of hucksters, selling everything from silks, to fans, to postcards.
Something that is a bit disturbing about it is that more than a few of these hucksters should really be in school. But the economics of the situation is that their parents need them working, because tourists are more likely to buy something from a little kid.
We figured the pig had gotten away from the restaurant (which is off to the right of this location — it’s the same place where the cop bought me a coconut the day before.)
After this … my friend who I was traveling with leads a grueling pace…
we went on a boat trip down the river to where the floating towns are located
A boat loaded with priests… note the orange robes
Life along the river was kind facilitating, at first I wondered about having their lives on display like this, but then I figured a river is not really any different from road, or a train, and it was like how you can look in on people’s lives as you traveled past
A floating town (that’s not the shore)
That said, some of the house-boats were really, REALLY, nice and immacuatly kept up
Note how the well-kept houseboats have satellite dishes and TV antenna’s. Thing is when you first see it you don’t really notice those little details — in part because you have your own assumptions about how these people live their lives. Me, I was wondering how they got their power…
And there were also some less affluent homes
While there we stopped at a store where they tried to sell us school supplies for our next stop, which was going to the be the village’s school.
My friend, who is a bleeding heart liberal, wanted to buy some… but I was skeptical (having pointed out the satellite dishes to her along with some other details of affluence), and didn’t let her. Our Tuk-Tuk driver (who had come with us) grinned widely after I did so, and backed me up. He said normally he never says anything but it’s a huge scam. Tourists buy supplies, and as soon as they’re gone, the unopened supplies go right back the store to be sold over and over again, with most of the profit going to the store… which is NOT owned by the boat people.
And THEN after this visit, we were taken to a project not far from our hotel, where handicapped men were taught to create duplicates of the sculptures at the temples, to decorate hotels and sell to tourists.
By this point in the day I was really worn out by our travels, the early morning, and the heat, and my tummy for some reason wasn’t happy with me, so begged out of what my friend had lined up for us as for the afternoon (more temples). Instead I stayed home at the hotel and rested for a few hours, and got to enjoy the view from our hotel, before we went out for dinner
Before our trip, my friend and I discovered (to my horror) that by the time we got around to looking into it that it was too late to start the anti-malarial treatment. We got shots for Japanese Encephalitis and some other thing, but Malaria is a HUGE deal in Cambodia. That said, apparently since Siem Reap is the ONE major draw for tourism to the country, the government actually invests a lot of money in trying to control the mosquito population in the jungles that surround it. But I was still nervous, so I basically bathed in repellent on a daily basis, and soaked that cheese cloth like shirt in the stuff for good measure — I was not pleasant smelling the whole trip, but I didn’t care. Happily, I managed to avoid the little suckers and only got ONE mosquito bite, on our very last night in Cambodia (when I’d begun to get lax in my neuroticism), at the fancy restaurant we took our Tuk Tuk driver to which was on the edge of town (across from a graveyard) … I was praying it was NOT a malaria carrier… and luckily it wasn’t.
Updated: Harry’s Café de Wheels, which first opened in 1938, is a 70-year-old Australian pie company with 13 different locations (the owner is clearly not superstitious) around the Sydney area that is considered so iconic that its original food cart is housed in the nearby Powerhouse Museum. Of these, seven keep true to the company’s food truck architecture — hence the “Café de Wheels” moniker.
All the tourist books say Harry’s Café is one of those MUST do things while in Sydney things. According to Wikipedia celebrities visiting Sydney who have made a point of stopping to eat here have included, Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum,Marlene Dietrich, and even Colonel Sanders. I learned about it before coming on this trip, while watching food channel episodes about things you HAD to try while in visiting Sydney, describing it as “authentic Sydney eats”. In keeping with my exploration of Australian Pies during my visit last year, which are sort of one of the national dishes … and as such I felt I had to at least TRY Harry’s “spécialité de la Maison” so to speak
Theirs is the tiger which is one of their pies covered and mashed potatoes which is then covered and mushy peas which is in covered in gravy. I left it to the woman working there to choose the most appropriate pie and she said it hat to be the beef one. Looking at it, from what I can tell their topping defeats the essential purpose of a Aussie pie that makes it different from … let’s say an American Pot pie… which is the Aussie incarnation of it is supposed to be easy to eat by holding it in your hands, like a sandwich …. sort of….
and THIS collection of slop you definitely cannot eat while holding it in your hands.
That said, the beef pie the “Tiger topping” was sitting upon, was exceptionally bland except for the flavor of pepper. Seriously, it was the only flavor that stood out. If you eat the mushy peas by themselves you can taste those, essentially fresh green peas pureed — (and nothing like the British version which has to start from a tin to taste right), but the flavor of Harry’s peas are subtle enough that its easy to see how they are overwhelmed by the pepper in the pie….. and if you eat the mashed potatoes with gravy again the whole thing is kind of bland because the gravy is a bit bland ……
So in effect… the individual parts are actually stronger alone than as a whole and as such… the dish is a major fail. The meal was in fact so underwhelming that once I got done doing the taste analysis I threw the rest of it out. Definitively not worth the calories. This had me looking at the other options on the menu but… there’s that pesky diet I have to maintain for medical reasons… so I didn’t order something else.
Update: Talked to a few Aussie friend about having gone here, current and former residents of Sydney, and they were amused I went. According to them, Yes it’s a Sydney tradition… but usually at 2 am when you’re drunk and need a serious amount of fat in your system to help you sober up. None of them considered it ‘good food.’
Kind of sad actually… I’m from Chicago where we take our hotdogs seriously, eat Italian beef & sausage sandwiches, often dipped in gravy and created the deep dish pizza and take it seriously…. these foods are all fatty, sure… but GOOD! While Italian beef and Pizza might sound Italian, the reality is they were, as eaten, created locally… it’s at best Italian influenced… but it’s local. AND… it’s SO good that all of these dishes are worth the calorie hit. Honestly the more I try “Aussie” food the less impressed I am.
There’s good food in Australia, only almost all of it is foreign ethnic.
ALSO… went to the Powerhouse museum and asked where the Harry’s original food van was. First I was told “no we don’t have it” and then I found out they did, but it was in deep storage and is never displayed…
So, yesterday we flew from Sydney north to Brisbane, changed planes, and kept on north to Townsville Airport, which is where you start seeing the Great Barrier Reef… bucket list travel to be sure. We were heading towards Magnetic Island, which is for the most part a tourism destination…. lots of beaches and hiking and mother nature at her Aussie finest
Anyway, getting here we flew Virgin Airlines domestic. There were a few things about the airports that I found interesting. Firstly, in the domestic terminals there are few to any food places in the public areas before you pass security. This seemed strange to me because people regularly arrive at airports early, for one reason or another, and need to hang out and wait till it’s time to check in. (The reason for the absence made sense to me a bit later.)
The second thing I noticed was that … in Australia, when flying DOMESTIC (I checked, this is not true when flying international), you do NOT need a boarding pass in order to pass security. THIS in part is why there’s not much in the way of hanging out places before security. The fact is that as long as you’ve only got carry-on type luggage, you don’t really need to wait to check in before accessing the food and shopping options on the other side of it. I somehow doubt you can pass a full-sized suitcase through… but we arrived at the airport a good two hours before check in would normally be allowed, and — since we were flying Virgin, one of the major Aussie carriers (their desk is ALWAYS open) — they happily checked out bags anyway.
To be honest, I had missed the fact that something was absent from the normal process when we entered the line for security, i.e., no one stopped us to check our boarding passes; but, it was like little voice in the back of my head that went ignored. I only realized that something was off when I saw a of couple, standing right near the gates, doing what was clearly tearful goodbyes …. at a gate. This confused me at first…. Why are these two standing the middle of the walkway, holding on to each other like it was the last time they’d ever see each other? The woman had tears trailing down her face, and he was kissing her sweetly. This is the sort of thing you USED to see in the USA at airport departure gates before 9-11, but you just don’t anymore because of loved ones no longer allowed to approach said gates (tearful goodbye have to happen before security and tend to be rushed, because no one wants to miss a flight because of the long lines that can happen there). And then later as we were boarding, I was watching two friends (who I had initially assumed were traveling together) saying their goodbye, and then one loaded the plane with us while the other turned and left to exit the airport…. and the light bulb in the brain went off as I finally put the pieces together.
When we landed in Brisbane I also noticed a few people who were clearly waiting at the gate for folks to get off. They were standing there with faces of happy expectation, looking at every person who walked off — in the face — clearly looking for someone they hadn’t seen in a while …. Again, you just don’t see that sort of the thing at gates in the USA anymore. When you do, its AFTER people have exited the controlled areas, which are guarded to keep anyone from walking in-the-out-doors, so to speak.
And then when we got to Townsville, as we unloading I noticed there was a bar before you exited the controlled area, that seemed to be utilized by locals, just hanging out. REALLY unusual from my perspective. I almost had the feeling that IF you live right by the airport in Townsville, it’s a SMALL town, that’s the local bar. Again in small towns in the US you might find bars like this BEFORE security, but not after… at least not since 9-11 happened.
And on a totally different note: our airline stewardess on Virgin Airlines from Brisbane to Townsville looked like Gal Gadot’s (i.e., Wonder Woman’s), not as attractive, sister.
the resemblance was particularly pronounced in profile and when she was smiling.
Located on the 2nd floor of the main building of the Sydney Fish Market, is a Chinese restaurant that is open 365 days a year, including holidays, and while it specializes in seafood (well why wouldn’t they?) also serves Dim Sum/Yum cha every day until 3pm.
but that said, if you’re a dim sum fan looking for it while in Australia, you need to know that Australians, for some reason, prefer the term Yum Cha to Dim Sum, which is how it described in pretty much every other country I’ve been to. (This is true to the extent that some Aussies won’t know what you’re talking about if you say Dim Sum, and if you’re trying to find a place near you that serves it, you’ll need to try searching BOTH terms on yelp and elsewhere — as it’s listed as two separate things). To explain the confusion: according to Wikipedia, “Yum cha (飲茶) in Cantonese Chinese literally means “drink tea”… in Cantonese, dim sum (點心) refers to the range of small dishes, whereas yum cha refers to the entire meal.” So that considered… the British tradition of doing “high tea,” (something I’ve done fairly regularly during my travels) is probably borrowed (along with Tea) from the Chinese tradition of Yum Cha.
I’ve been in Australia about a month now… and the first week I was here I went to The Fish Markets, and when I wrote the blog post about it I mentioned having learned (while writing the post) that there was a Chinese restaurant on the building’s 2nd floor which I had missed (the day I was there I came down with a bad cold, which I most likely had picked up on the flight over, ah the joys of travel) … three weeks later I moved Airbnb’s, only to find myself a straight bus ride away from the Fish markets… and decided to rectify this.
The entrance is a single doorway leading to steep staircase at the far end of building. There is an elevator but it is NOT the one that’s easy to find at the front of the building where everyone enters. That one leads to the administrative/business floor an there’s no through walkway from there to the restaurant. You have to go outside, keep walking to the back-end of the building and in an entry way — that looks like you MUST be in the wrong place — is an elevator that is VERY VERY VERY slow, but will take you up to the restaurant.
Once up there they’ll seat you (try to get one with the view of the bridge… and if it’s before 3pm there are dim sum carts to choose you lunch from… or you can order off the menu.
That said, it was some of the best Dim Sum I have had in a while — especially for outside of China. Everything was very fresh, and since most of their clientele are Chinese… who are way more discriminating about Dim Sum than the rest of planet is, its sort of to be expected. The turnip cake, which is one of my favorite things but is usually made badly, was the best I’ve had in years.
Luna Park, in the suburb of North Sydney Australia (kiddy-corner across the bridge from the Opera House) is a classic, “historic” amusement park (of the pre-Disney variety). It was based on (and, like ALL the Luna Parks around the world, is named after) the one in New York City’s Coney Island. It is one of the few such surviving parks to feature “Fantasy architecture” in the Art deco Style, and interestingly… is one of only two amusement parks in the world that is protected by government legislation… and is listed on the NSW Heritage Register
Luna Park was initially constructed in 1935 and has a history of on again off again, operating schedules, due in part to a fairly dodgy safety record, which included a catastrophic fire in 1979 that killed six children and one adult, called the Ghost Train Fire.
As a result, during its off years, some very high-end housing developed around the location, whose residents complained loudly when the park began operations again. This resulted in a compromise of removal of rides that were deemed too loud … because of screams of happiness from riders, and limited operating schedules at night… making it basically impossible for the park to be profitable.
That said, Luna park still consists mostly of rides I can’t ride (because of my inner ear issues)… with the possible exception of the Ferris Wheel, and games I’m no good at, so that from my perspective while it’s very PRETTY to look at the place it’s really not a draw, for me personally… NOT the way Disney parks are… and the few times I’ve been there it’s looked pretty empty, all things considered.
We had weather!!! This storm produced what news outlets are dubbing the worst hail storm to hit Sydney in 20 years. My friend and I were actually VERY lucky during it, we got all the pretty and excitement, and none of the damage… while the area called North Sydney, which is a short walk east of us as the crow flies (its the area of tall buildings on the right side of the image below) got tennis ball sized hail that broke straight through car windows, we only got hail the size of quarters. Apparently, all told, there were 30K lightning strikes over the four hours of the storm. News reports today put the damage into the millions, and 20K homes lost power.
The plan for today was to take advantage of the fact that my one year pass for Scenic World, which I bought last year while in Katoomba, had not yet expired, and drive out there with my travel buddy and his mom. We cancelled because there was a warning of sever storms…. First we had rain coming down in sheets, then we had hail that started out pea size and graduated at about quarter size…
and then we got THIS. note how it seems to be starting just AT — as in in FRONT of the bushes on the far side of the street, AND its a double rainbow?! — you can’t see from this shot but its a COMPLETE rainbow
My travel buddy was in his bedroom, working — he works remotely, hence his ability to travel… but he still has to work…. and had headphones on and was missing the whole thing… when it was hailing, he was not excited… I even brought him a quarter sized piece of it that had landed on the veranda, but NOPE, unimpressed, but THIS woke him up….
What was kind of interesting was that over time it drifted away, as in didn’t get less intense, but seemed to be more out into the distance. FIRST it was in front of the nearby bushes… but then behind them…
But then it moved out like miles away onto the horizon… so that now I could get it all in one shot without having to use panaroma…. and then 45 min later
This was going on…. …. SCARY… The cloud formation in the photo above showed up in a news article the next day…. And according to the news report it was directly over Manley Bay (a few miles east of where we are)
And its not done… at one point I had my back to the window and saw two bolts of lighting reflected in my screen as my room lit up… and there was a building shaking BOOM a second later…
All told, it appears that my weather karma is still holding.
So, yet another of my bucket list items has been checked off, although not at all in the way I had imagined. I have seen a fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor with the bridge and the archetypal Opera House in the background with my own eyes.
It was totally unexpected… I was lying in bed in Sydney Australia, getting over a bad cold I’d been fighting — starting just 3 days after my arrival (so I probably picked it up during my flight), and my traveling mate for this trip had gone out with an old friend of his (he’s originally from Sydney) to a party. So I was not in the best of moods… stuck in bed, missing a party … etc.,
To pass the time, as I was lying in bed, I was yet again watching the movie that won the 2016, Academy Award for best picture, “Spotlight.” For those who don’t know it…it is a movie about how the Boston Globe in 2001, had exposed the sexual abuse scandal that is still rocking the Catholic Church today. They had followed up on a theory of a psychological researcher — who had argued that 50% of Catholic priests were sexual activity and that of those, about 6% were pedophiles. According to him, this was not because they were attracted to children, but rather because male children from rough neighborhoods and broken homes (in particular) were the least likely to admit to the abuse.
Going on that researcher’s assessment (which would have meant about 90 pedophiles within the total population of Boston Priests) the Globe’s journalists were able, through extensive legwork, and by reading between the lines of church records — to uncover that while only one pedophile priest was currently in the news, in fact 87 of them were currently being bounced around the parishes of Boston; all of this being part of a methodical & institutionalized attempt on the part of the Catholic Church to protect itself rather than its children.
Once their research was published, over 1000 Boston area victims — knowing they were no longer alone — stepped forward, and ultimately 249 priests and brothers were publicly accused of sexual abuse JUST within the Boston Archdiocese. The Globe’s finding, had world-wide repercussions, effectively opening a can of worms as all Catholic communities, one by one, in a domino effect began to publicly address this cancer within the Catholic church… a phenomena which we are still dealing with almost 20 years later.
I’ve talked about Pell before… Almost a year ago I was in Australia, in Ballarat, a town just outside of Melbourne, which is epicenter of the abuse scandal here (I was staying with a woman I had befriended via Facebook years before). At the time I had blogged about “Ballarat’s loud fence: Civil protest against the church in Australia” and had included an amazing song written and performed by the inimitable Tim Minchin, ‘Come home (Cardinal Pell)’ … a song he had penned in an afternoon. (I admit I have since developed a bit of a crush on this guy… he is a genius.)
At the time, as far as I knew, Pell was only thought to have been actively involved in the coverup, but as this week’s court case proved, he was also sexually abusing boys himself.
So this was a story that while was of HUGE interest to the Australian public, it was NOT being covered by the local press. In fact, the Judge on the case had instituted a media gag order on its outcome. As such, the Herald Sun Newspaper of Melbourne’s front page rather than covering the results, showed in large letters the word CENSURED followed by, “The world is reading a very important story that is relevant to Victorians [The Australian State within which Melbourne and Ballarat reside],” but, that said “The Herald Sun is prevented from publishing details of this significant news. But trust us. It’s a story you deserve to read.” The gag was so tight that even foreign press, for fear of legal repercussions, were blocking Australian readers from seeing what they’d written about the case. I learned about it because my Ballarat friend was reaching out via Facebook to her friends abroad to see if THEY could read trustworthy media sources talking about the case, and tell her what those articles had said.
Anyway, at this point you’re probably asking yourself, “WHY in fuck’s sake is Rebecca going on about Cardinal Pell in a blog post about a fireworks display over the Sydney Harbor?!” Well… when I saw the display I had NO IDEA why they were happening. My Aussie friend hadn’t known they were going to happen, I’d had no warning. So part of my brain sort of assumed that MAYBE … if this wasn’t due to some corporate event… just maybe they were in celebration of outcome of the court case.
Talking about it the next day with another Aussie native, apparently there’s a yearly TV show here in celebration of the Christmas Holidays that has something to do with caroling… and always includes fireworks over the bay that part of the program, and she though this was for that… but I couldn’t find anything on-line to confirm it… so I like to think that this was in celebration of the conviction… to paraphrase the country western song… it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
[Updated, Aug 2019]
This blog post offers a fairly comprehensive description of every business in the Fish Market, and what their offerings are. It starts with with Fresh fish, and then moves through all the prepared food offerings, based on my visit in 2018.
Anyone who is a fan of fish (as in eating it) should consider a few hours at the Sydney Fish Markets, located in the Pyrmont neighborhood of the Greater Sydney area. According to their site, they are the largest market “of their kind” in the southern hemisphere (but that’s actually a very vague statement, so I’m not sure what it means exactly). That said, the place is fairly large, a bit labyrinth like, and offers an almost overwhelming number of options to the first time visitor (so reading a blog post like this before going really could help you make some decisions). While I’m guessing at these numbers, the place seemed to be 50% a full-fledged fish market offering freshly caught raw fish (or what the Aussies call “wet fish”), about 40% is fast-food stalls where you can gorge-out on pre-cooked (displayed) fishy delights — a lot of deep fried or smothered in cheese– until you need to loosen your pants, and about 10% is normal sit down restaurants (for the boring) that specialize in fish — most of which are Chinese food (probably because the majority of the tourists that like to come here seem to be from China — and in my whole life I’ve only met ONE person who didn’t like Chinese food).
As you walk around, especially if you get there earlier in the morning (before 11am), you quickly realize that this place is a bona-fide fish market, in that it is the city’s wholesale (i.e. bulk sales) hub for products to restaurants, and other businesses, as well as offering retail sales (small sales) to the public. I’ve been to a few “fisherman’s wharf’s” over the past few years, and till and as such was expecting this one, like those, to have degraded into a tourist trap (because of changes in the fishing industry) … that is not the case here. This is the real McCoy. The auctions of the morning’s catch begin at around 6:30 am, while the onsite restaurants and other shops intended for the public open up for business a few hours later, at 9am and close at 4pm.
If you spend enough time walking around the various shops (and peak into corners) you’ll find all sorts of workers descaling ….
and deboning some of the freshest fish I’ve ever seen for sale to the public….
…as well as folks who are busy shucking oysters. And, if you pay attention you’ll begin to realize what isn’t there… namely, ANY of that fishy smell that one comes to expect around places that sell ‘fresh’ fish… which usually isn’t actually all that fresh… and ALL of the fish here are clear of eye and firm of flesh [for those of you who don’t know how to identify fresh fish, read the article linked] in a way you just don’t see much of anymore — which tells you just how fresh they are — even at the high end local fish stores with the best offerings… this place is just fresher than anything you’re used to.
Like I said, about half of the market is just that … as in you can buy an impressive variety of fresh fish to take home and cook. There are (to my count) five of this type of fresh fish shops scattered around the fish market area:
De Costi Seafood, which is not in the main building (but rather is in a sort of strip mall that lines one side) was the first of these shops that I entered…
In addition to fish to cook, De Costi’s sells a small amount of ‘prepared’ fish that you can eat outside while gazing out at the bay (at your own risk … the seagulls here are aggressive and will try to steal your food)… such as the ever popular sashimi, which I soon learned pretty much every one of the fresh fish shops offered. This, you can either buy in pre-cut sets designed for one person (usually of the most popular salmon/tuna mixes), or you can ask them to assemble platters of the stuff for your family/group (although there is a minimum number of grams of each fish that you have to buy to qualify for this service).
Although MOST of the customers go for the salmon or the tuna (and as such about half the case was just of those two), at the other end of the case was a wide array of choices that included local cuttlefish, imported surf clams from Canada and scallops from Japan, all of them sashimi/sushi grade [PLEASE do not just buy raw fish, cut it up and eat it uncooked, as it might make you very sick! Please read this to understand the difference between sushi grade fish and fish intended to be cooked. That said, flash freezing is process that deep freezes the fish to super low temperatures that your normal home freezer wasn’t designed to achieve (in effect killing off parasites with cold instead of heat), so NO you can’t just stick it in the freezer at home and save yourself the money.]
In addition to Sashimi, De Costi offers some other foods you could buy and eat including pre-cooked lobster, smoked salmon, fish pâtés, and shucked oysters on the half-shell… as well as some semi-prepared foods, like “marinara” mixes (combinations of raw seafood) for you to take home and cook at home, with pasta, or in seafood soups and stews.
But for the most part De Costi’s is about raw fish… of every shape and variety that the Australian shores offer.
But like I said, De Costi’s is just one of about five different stores in the Market that sell to fresh raw fish to the public.
Musumeci’s Seafood, is another of the fresh fish shops, and is also located in a separate building from the main structure.
Of ALL the shops it’s the only one I found to be handing out samples (from the woman standing behind the little table in the middle of the picture above). These “tasties” were of their smoked and/or roasted salmon, and pâtés made from salmon or trout.
Once inside the offerings were pretty similar to what I found at De Costi’s, only they seemed to have more in the way of shellfish and less in the way of the scaled variety … and what fish they did have looked a little, the worse for wear… just not quite AS fresh… but that could have been because the facilities upon which they were displayed all looked a little long in the tooth and distorted the overall appearance (at a glance).
This store seemed to focus a much larger percentage of their counter space than De Costi had, to the sashimi trade, with more in the way of pre-sliced combo offerings and side dishes like seaweed salad… so more aimed at the tourists than to local cooks… I think…
Hidden behind Musumeci’s (closer to the water) is another store by the name of Claudio’s Quality Seafoods, which to me looked better and fresher (more akin to De Costi) in terms of their fish…
and this place had an even better shellfish selection than Musumeci’s had (so the best of both worlds so to speak), a variety of which was being sold pre-cooked (and of course they had the obligatory sashimi as well)…. and it is also where I found the guys in red doing the filleting in the picture towards the top of the blog… (I was beginning to think that the presence of folks visibly filleting seafood is one of the attributes you want to keep an eye out for when judging these places. If you can’t see anyone actually prepping fish for sale… move on to the next store.
I also saw something at Claudio’s Quality Seafoods that I didn’t notice anywhere else in the market, shark steaks for sale. They have this large piece of shark sitting there (see image above). They can’t display the whole thing since small ones are about 10 feet long, and really big ones can be as large as 20 feet. Instead they put out this very large slab, and then you tell them how many “steaks” you want, and they cut them off with something akin to a chainsaw. (I wasn’t lucky enough to see a slice being cut, but there was a local guy taking around a group of Asian visitors … a small handful of people… and I overheard him describing the process to them.)
That said… From all of the reviews that I read before coming here (which I think I agree with), Peter’s Sydney Fish Market is considered the best of all the shops in the entire Market. It has a very large and bright location within the prime real estate of the main building and sells almost (pretty much) EVERYTHING that all of the other fish stores sell… both cooked and raw (didn’t see any shark) … and in addition includes almost all of the most popular dishes that the food stalls have on offer (although, based on my personal observations, it sells the duplicated dishes at a slower rate, so the food stalls cooked offerings might be more recently prepared — that said, there are dishes here you can’t find elsewhere and these dishes therefore move faster).
In the center of the store Peters offers a VERY large selection of fresh fish and unlike the other places in the market that sell the same, Peters will even cook your fish for you, but for a fee….(in the USA stores that do this do it for free)… But, I noticed that fee varies with, is the fish already filleted or not… if not, it costs about $5 AUD more per kilogram.
Where in the US stores that cook it for you tend to either grill or steam (rarely both), at Peter’s in addition to these two your fish selection can also be stir or deep fried … and with a whole variety of spices and flavorings from which to choose from… and there are also side dishes on offer.
But this was only the start of what Peters offered in terms of prepared foods…. you could also have them prepare shellfish to order, or chose from their pre-cooked offerings….
Among the shellfish you could buy (already cooked), was something I had heard about on a travel Food Channel show, ‘Australian bugs’. From what I learned from the show, these are variety of shellfish that are picked up by accident, i.e., garbage fish that are not considered desirable by the fish trade, that Aussies have taken to eating as a “local dish” but that, like I said, no one else eats. (I tried them, I wasn’t impressed).
[… ironically, even though the gelatinous Blobfish, which you do see for sale in Korean fish-markets, originates in Australian waters, I didn’t see ANY of it for sale in the Sydney Fish Market. I first learned of the fish when living in Korea, when my best friend there while walking me through his town’s food market told me that blobfish was almost inedible with no muscle and just a sort of gelatinous mass of blubber … but he said that Koreans during The War were so desperate for any food source they could fine, that they had figured out a way of processing its flesh with chemicals to make it so… kind of like how olives straight from the tree are very bitter and inedible, and need to be cured first]
In addition to cooked fish, Peter’s offers a not only the obligatory Sashimi option, but also sells pre-prepared sushi for $2.50 AUD each (fish on rice, rather than straight sashimi) … allowing you to pick and choose from their offerings which pieces you wanted in your set. Be Warned, I noticed — and confirmed this by asking — that once noon rolled around, no new sushi offerings were added, and you will be stuck with what was left over from the morning. So, if you want sushi from Peter’s, buy it early… [That said, one of the food court places offers a much more limited selection of cooked sushi that’s sold adjacent to its hot food (blech — cooked sushi?), and there is also a nondescript hole-in-the-wall sushi joint within the main building called, “Sushi Bar at the Fish Market”, which makes it to order, but from my observations — I left at around 12:30 did barely any business other than selling drinks during the early part of the day when Peter’s offering had not yet sold out]
In addition, Peter’s was selling freshly made before your eyes “Aburi” shellfish … which translates to flame seared … these are scallops completely covered in cheese and other stuff… and hence so far off my diet that I couldn’t taste them…. Almost all of the food stalls sell the same, but these seemed to be the only ones that were grilled to order.
The only major competitor to Peter’s is probably Nickolas’s Seafood, which to my eye was offering a variety of 30% fresh/wet fish and was by far more, like almost 70% a cooked foods sort of place….
Really MOST of what they had, was cooked stuff for the tourist market, like at the food stalls… although like Peter’s it has sushi, but not as much…
but Nicholas’s distinct product seemed to be these very pretty platters of seafood (the little plastic round containers hold the Aussie version of cocktail sauce which is heavy on the mayo… blech). The scallop platter may seem overpriced, but scallops sticks at Doyle’s or Christy’s with five on a stick were $10 AUD… so you sort of have to do the math… and you can of course take home the shells if you so wish.
While Peter’s seemed to specialize in fresh (or what the Aussies refer to as wet) fish, Nickolas’s seemed to do more “swimming” shellfish — live and in a tank. While there I saw this almost comical scene when a customer came in wanting to buy a six ginormous lobsters… which when taken out of the tanks and laid on the floor for the customer to inspect… started skittering around said floor in a desperate attempt to escape and freaked out this little girl.
Pre-cooked foods only options
So, like I said before, while all of the above options also sold food you can eat on the spot such as the obligatory sashimi…. or cooked lobster or sushi in some cased, about 40% of Sydney’s Fish Market consists fast-food type stalls [not made to order restaurants], where you can pick from the displayed pre-made fish delicacies (although most also have some stuff cooked to order, usually for larger family sized trays, etc). So for instance, adjacent to De Costi’s in the strip mall type area is the…
The first such shop you’ll notice as you enter the building is Doles, (it’s at the very entrance)…. here they have a food stall sets up that sells flame grilled fresh fish on a stick…
This was hands down my favorite of the places because they don’t smother it in oil, and will even do with completely without oil if you ask… even corn on the cob (with no butter)… very healthy food.
Right behind this healthy option stall they have a larger restaurant setup that sells oysters, and all foods unhealthy … either deep-fried or smothered in cheese or cream sauce… which in my mind utterly defeats the point of eating seafood.
Across the hallway from Doyles, still at the front entrance is
and adjacent to Christie’s is The Fish Market Cafe — which to me looked to be the least healthy of all of them, but also probably the most popular of these places, as it seemed to be doing the most business in selling prepared foods.
While most of the customers opted to sit indoors to eat their food, the fish market is directly adjacent to the water and there is seating outside for those who want to enjoy a view with their food.
That said, there are more than a few seagulls and such who hang out at this location, and these are fairly aggressive birds who will happily steal your food from you (some online sources I read said that it’s not unknown for them to dive bomb you for it), which is why almost every table is covered with an umbrella or located inside a sort of tent (think not only dive bombing seagulls but also seagull poop)… they’re set up more to help protect your lunch from the bird, rather than you from the sun (although they do that too).
if you ARE intending to make a meal of it, the ONLY cooked veggies I saw were carbs… your choices are corn on the cob … which I had… rice or noodles… if you want veggies or fruit with your meal, at the far end of the market there’s a small fruit and veggies market that also offers up things like fruit salad and chocolate covered fruit.
For your dessert options there is also a bakery and coffee shop inside the main building. And for those in your party who do not like fish... (in addition to the burgers at the Salty Squid) there’s an Italian deli that will make sandwiches. … That said if your traveling companion is like mine, a vegetarian… well those folks should pretty much just stay home because this place will most likely just offend them. [My vegetarian friend is also the only person I’ve ever met who refused to eat Chinese food.]
Sit down Restaurants:
Finally, the fish market consists of about 10% sit down restaurants where you order from the menu like normal. Two of these are located on the same strip mall type building where De Costi’s is located, just past the Salty Squid fast food joint… that said, neither of these seemed to be doing a load of business during the whole time I was there (and I was there till 12:30). The Third is a restaurant I only discovered after I started composing this blog, and looked like someplace I’d like to try, so I went back and did so… Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood is a fancy Chinese place located on the 2nd floor of the Market’s main building via some stairs — there is an elevator to it at the very back of the building, but its hidden behind the fruit and veg market, the elevator at the front of the building will NOT get you there –and during the market’s open hours/lunch they do DIM SUM… yo mama!!! Monday to Friday : 11am – 3pm Saturday and Sunday : 10am – 3pm I checked it out later in this trip and gave it a separate review which you can read if you follow the link.
The only sit down restaurant I took photos of was the Sea Emperor….