Chinese New Year is a major event here in Penang. So major that you get at least 2 days off of work to celebrate it. On the flip side of that if you are not celebrating CNY there is not much to do. A lot of the restaurants close as well as a lot of the stores in the mall. The supply chain for the grocery stores get interrupted so it is very likely that there will be no milk or bread, anywhere. Also one word: Fireworks. Fireworks all night long for days. Since we were here last year during CNY and it was kind of a drag for us, we decided to travel during it this year to miss some of the festivities. We went on an epic trip to Sydney, Australia and then on to the North Island of New Zealand. It was my very favorite trip that we have taken since we have been here.

We took the red eye flight from KL to Sydney and landed mid-morning.  We also happened to land on Australia Day, which is like July 4th for us in the US. It was really fun to get to celebrate with them. We took a walk to Darling Harbor to see how the Ausie’s celebrate.  It was a whole lot like a urban 4th of July celebration with lots of flags, food, live music, and fun for the kids. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay awake for the fireworks….remember the red eye part. We were so tired, especially B. We actually watched the fireworks on TV in our hotel while B slept. There was a big concert then an impressive display over the water.

Darling Harbor on Australia Day.

The next day after a good sleep we set out for Toranga Zoo,in which you have to take a ferry across the harbor to get to. It was a great day. On the walk to the Harbor I became impressed with how much green space Sydney has. There are parks all over the place. It was a really nice change. One could not say the same about Penang, even though we are surrounded by jungle. We walked through Hyde Park, which is lovely.

Hyde Park

You catch the ferry for the zoo from Circular Quay, which is where the Sydney Opera House is.

B with the Harbor Bridge at Circular Quay
B and the Opera House

The ferry ride offers great views of Downtown Sydney.

Downtown Sydney
Harbor Bridge and Opera House from the Ferry

Taronga Zoo is really awesome. It sits up on a hill so the views of Sydney are amazing.

View of Sydney from the zoo.
View from the Zoo

There are animals there too.

Urban Giraffe

I mean come on! That view!!


This place is awesome!

Taronga has lots of animals to see and an awesome kids area with a petting zoo and a huge playground.

Play time


Our small travel stroller broke on the way to the zoo. Luckily the zoo has stroller rentals. We had to go get a replacement that evening after the zoo. There were two things with this situation that reminded me what I miss about home. The first, we didn’t want to just abandon our broken stroller; littering and all that. We found a staff member of the Opera House and asked them if there was a dumpster or something we could leave it in. He said just leave it by the trash can Mate, and he would take care of it. That would not happen in Malaysia, we would have seriously gotten the response “cannot” and nothing else. I can promise you that.

The second part of this situation that made me homesick was the ease in which we were able to replace our broken stroller with a new one.  We googled Target so we could buy another stroller. After dinner we took a cab to the mall in which google told us the Target was. We found both a Target and a K-Mart and were able to accomplish buying a new stroller with no problem. This also would have not been the case in Penang. It would never be that simple. Ever. One cannot just google things here and get accurate information, and then proceed to accomplish the thing you set out to.  It just doesn’t happen.

Here is a little aside for you…..K-mart way better than Target in Australia, because turns out Target is not actually Target. There are no Targets outside of the US. This is a store using the name and bullseye, and seriously K-Mart was awesome. We really were on the opposite side of the world!

Our third day in Sydney we went to the Sydney Sea Life aquarium and then wandered around the neighborhoods down by the Harbor.

B loved the aquarium.  It was nice, it was bigger than I expected. It has a couple of tunnel tanks to walk through. A nice Dugong exhibit (which looked like a Manatee), and great penguin ride.

Tropical Tank
King Penguins
The Dugong


After the aquarium and a lovely lunch by the harbor we wandered down to the Harbor Bridge and over to a neighborhood called The Rocks.

The Harbor Bridge

If you look closely you can see that there are people climbing to the top rise of the bridge. Traveling with a three year old does not make it conducive to even think about doing that. Yep it was because of the three year old.


Finally the view of the Opera House I was looking for!

Opera House

In celebration of CNY there were inflatable animals of the Chinese Zodiac all over the harbor area.  Here are the rabbits doing Tai Chi in the park.

Rabbits doing Tai Chi

The Rocks was funky little area at the base of the bridge. It was the original prison when Australia was still a penal colony. They have of course turned the original prison buildings into restaurants, shops and condos. We stumbled across a great little craft market down there. That is where I found my now favorite tote bag. It has a sausage dog with sunglasses on. It is my favorite because I miss my dog terribly (who is a doxie sausage dog) and it’s fun.

The Rocks – The original prison buildings. The first built in Sydney.

Our final site was a stroll through The Botanical Gardens on our way back to our hotel. It is huge, and once again a lovely bit of green space in the middle of the city. Just lovely.

Our intrepid guide through the botanical gardens.
One of the historic buildings in the Botanical Gardens.

It was a short stopover in Sydney before we headed on to New Zealand, but I am so glad we did. Sydney is a great city, with a lot to do. I know we didn’t even get to see half of it, but I am glad we saw what we did. I have met quite a few Australians that are ex-pats here in Penang. In fact one of my closest friends here is an Ausie. I find them to extremely nice, and welcoming people. I didn’t find it to be any different traveling there. I am so glad we got go to Sydney even if it was for only a couple of days. I am keen to see more of Australia someday ( 😉 Rachel). Now on to New Zealand!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Susanne says:

    I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge when I was there a few years ago!! It was amazing 🙂
    I thought the Taronga Zoo was fantastic as well (and even fed the giraffes). I really enjoyed Sydney…though felt it was similar to a large NYC. It was a welcome change when we hit New Zealand

    If you’re going to Auckland (it was not my favorite) and you have time, you should check out the Antarctica aquarium-type place (I forget the name of it now), it’s all penguins!! Though I think if you’re posting this blog you might already be finished with the trip.

    So happy you got to Australia and New Zealand…seriously two of my absolutel favorite places on earth!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. esrussell79 says:

      I have been so behind on posting. Working on the NZ post, I probably won’t finish everything up until we get the move done! NZ was amazing, it’s definitely one I would make the trip around the world for again!


  2. ccurrent01 says:

    Looks like a great trip, we really enjoyed Sydney and NZ. Glad you were able to get there before you come back. Ben looks like he loved the Zoo! We sure did!

    Liked by 1 person

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