Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sydney Trip Itinerary - CBD, Sea Life Aquarium and Madame Tussauds.

It's our first day in Sydney! Although the darling's been here many times in the past thanks to her time studying in Melbourne, it's my first visit and I'm excited! For a recap of the entire trip, table of contents and links to other posts, do click here: One Week in Sunny Sydney - Full Trip Itinerary!

Trying to be as efficient as possible we had chosen a red-eye, overnight flight from Singapore to Sydney (transit Kuala Lumpur) on Malaysia Airlines. The flight was really quite restful - and we had satay, which is probably the best anything we've ever eaten at 35,000 feet - thanks to a really cheap SGD150 upgrade to Business Class! Do check out our previous post on the flight if you're interested.

Malaysia Airlines Business Class

Upon landing we cleared immigration and customs - all the while looking around for film crews in case they happened to be filming another episode of Border Security - and boarded a shuttle van to Apex Car Rentals to pick up our Hyundai Elantra.

A note on car rentals in Australia: The major rental chains like Hertz, Budget etc have really exorbitant excess charges - anywhere from AUD2,000 to AUD4,000. This excess is the base amount that you need to pay if you get into an accident, even if it wasn't your fault! So you normally either pay an extra AUD20-40 a day to reduce this excess, or just suck it up and eat the risk.

The smaller, boutique rental shops like Apex tend to have more reasonable terms, though - we paid just AUD43/day for this Elantra with zero excess. This zero excess also applies for accidents that are your fault, so it's great having peace of mind of not ever needing to pony up extra money for any mishaps while driving in a foreign country.

Sydney Apex Car Rentals

The next note on driving in Australia is that parking rates in the cities are insane. And if you think I'm exaggerating, check out this AUD79 for 3 hours madness in a CBD (Central Business District) car park:

Sydney Apex Car Rentals

It isn't all that bad, though - there are a number of ways to reduce your parking costs - first of which is a fixed flat daily rate from AUD8 to AUD17 if you're visiting the Sea Life Aquarium or any of a number of tourist attractions within the CBD. It's still not cheap, but in our opinion a very reasonable rate to pay. As of time of writing the below six car parks qualify for the flat rate parking - just park your car, take the ticket, and have it validated by the counter staff at the Aquarium when purchasing your tickets. Do also check out the aquarium's cheap parking website as well for the latest updates, just in case they remove or add any participating car parks.

Sydney Cheap CBD Parking

In all, there are five CBD attractions that have common ticketing:

- Sea Life Aquarium
- Manly Sea Life Sanctuary
- Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
- Wild Life Sydney Zoo
- The Sydney Tower Eye

As you might expect, you get significant discounts when purchasing multiple attractions at once. For example, a single Sea Life Aquarium ticket costs AUD40, whereas Sea Life Aquarium + two other attractions is AUD70. You get even better prices by purchasing online. As always, make sure you take note of any T&C attached to these discounted tickets.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Anyways, if you've never been to an aquarium then the Sea Life Aquarium is similar to pretty much every other aquarium (like KL's Aquaria KLCC or Osaka's Kaiyukan): there's typically a huge central tank housing the really big fish - sharks, tuna, etc - flanked by dozens of smaller tanks with smaller fish and other marine life from around the world. Most aquariums also have a touch pool which lets you reach in and feel different rays and starfish, etc. It's a perfect visit if you've got young children - and a very good one if you don't.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Do make sure you check out the feeding times for the various tanks! Two of the more interesting-sounding feeding times (in our view) are the shark feeding at 11am and the penguin feeding at 3pm:

"11:00am - Reef Theatre: JAWsome Shark Feed
Sit back and relax while we feed the animals in our largest tank in front of the best view in the aquarium at Great Barrier Reef. If you're interested in feeding the animals yourself check out the Glass Bottom Boat for a hands on experience!

3pm - South Coast Shipwreck: Playful Little Penguin Feed
Get your happy feet down to the South Coast Shipwreck and watch our cute and cuddlycolony of gorgeous Little Penguins having lunch."


Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

One thing the darling and I didn't count on is the fatigue from the previous night's lack of sleep. In hindsight it was perhaps rather ambitious to plan an overnight flight and immediately launch into a full day of sightseeing - after all, even though the flight itself was 7-ish hours, we only slept for perhaps two thirds of that. We were so tired we had to find a bench inside the aquarium, sit down and take a 15 minute nap!

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

After the aquarium and a short water break, we move on to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. Not going to go into too much detail here as you probably already know that Madame Tussaud's casts life-sized wax replicas of various historical figures, politicians and celebrities for visitors to pose and take photos with. We're not sure if we'd pay the stand-alone entry fee of AUD40; but as a reduced-cost package it was a pretty nice visit.

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

One thing we did notice was that Madame Tussaud's hasn't seemed to have mastered the proper skin tone for Asians yet - check out the below rendition of "Jackie Chan with Jaundice":

Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

After filling up our camera memory cards we walk over to the Sydney Tower Eye for our third and last CBD attraction visit for the day. The Tower Eye entrance is actually inside Westfield Sydney, on the 5th floor. The observation deck sits at 250m above sea level, and although it's perhaps not quite as high as newer towers like the 450m deck on the Tokyo Skytree, you still do get pretty impressive views of the city.

Sydney Tower Eye

If you still have time to spare, you could kill an hour or two at places like the Queen Victoria Building (shopping mall). By the time we were done with Tower eye it was quite late, though, so we walked over to Sepia for dinner. We chose Sepia because it has won Sydney's Restaurant of the Year award three times in the SMH Good Food Guide 2012, 2014 and 2015 editions, and it didn't disappoint! Food's really, really good - you can head on over to our previous blogpost for the complete dinner review.

Sepia Restaurant Sydney

Completely stuffed and satisfied after the dinner, we pick up our car from the parking lot and head home! By home, of course I mean our home-away-from-home temporary accommodation. For holiday accommodation it's tough to give recommendations on a blogpost because everyone has different needs (single traveller vs extended family), and different budgets (backpacker vs elite luxury traveller). Having said that, we rented a lovely two-bedroom apartment less than 200m away from Coogee Beach for around AUD200 per night (four beds, six adults) off stayz.com (airbnb clone).

Stay tuned for the next post in this series coming up shortly!

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