Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sydney on a budget

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Hey all, sorry for the late update on my Australia trip. In one of my previous posts, Melbourne on a budget, I've already wrote on tips to save costs on your travel, The total damage was RM2,323 (inclusive of my upcoming return flight back from Sydney - Kuala Lumpur) now I shall continue about Sydney!

To start things off, I was in Sydney for 6 days with Eileen. So I will break it down to a few sections on how to spend for your trip.

Arriving at Sydney:
We took connecting flights from Melbourne with Jetstar which costed us RM300 per person including luggage. Always have a look at Jetstar/Tiger Airways promos around and you can get cheap flights of average RM80 without check in luggage. 

But of course I do not recommend Tiger Airways as their reviews are tremendously terrible with all the problems faced by Australians themselves

Transport
Arriving at the airport, You would need to take a transfer to the city. We already pre-booked ours with the hostel we were staying at and it costed us $10 per person per way. But there are certain hostels/hotels which actually provide free airport shuttle service if you stay with them and book through their website (This doesn't include booking websites like agoda etc)

At the city itself, It is pretty easy to navigate around the city and you can walk from 1 end to the other. For example from our hostel (Pitt street) to the opera house, its only a 20 min walk

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As for public transport, instead of using a Myki card like in Melbourne, You have to get an Opal card. It costs about $12 with $10 pre-loaded inside. For a 6 day trip in Sydney, I used a total of $15 of credit for the trip (So total up what i paid was $17 OMG THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE WTF)

There's a hack/loophole to do so. My friends Ezreena & Jin told me about in and grateful for it!

- Opal's system runs from Monday - Sunday
- Its a max cap of $15 per day (if you reach the maximum cap, then your trips for the rest of the day are free)

This is the main one to achieve only $15 for the week:
- If you take 8 trips (with 1 hour in between each trip) the rest of your trips till Sunday are free!

Here's how you exploit it: while walking around Sydney on the first day exploring the city, take a short bus trip for 1 stop every 1 hour

So for example:

1st trip
8.00am - Take a Pitt Street bus > 1 stop to the upper street
8.02am - reach the upper street

8.02am - 9.02am - Walk around the area or explore other areas and for example, end up at liverpool street

2nd trip
9.03am - Take a Liverpool Street bus > 1 stop to the next street
9.06am - reach the next street

9.06am - 10.07am - walk around and explore

each trip would be about $1 depending on the distance between each stop, So you repeat this process 8 times in the first day while exploring the city, The rest of the trips are free for the week!

The free trips also include my ferry ride to the zoo ($15 Return), blue mountains ($15), bondi beach, DFO and many more! That's a lot you can save with this system instead of using a max cap of $15 per day for 6 days ($90 total)

Another important note, if you were to for example:
- Take a bus from 9.00 - 9.03, and jump to a train on 9.05 - 9.10, this is only considered as only 1 trip as it is connected

You can also check your timing on Opal's website itself as they would note down the time you enter a bus and exit another.

Total Transportation cost per person:

Airport Transfer (2 ways) - $20
Opal Card - $17

Accommodation
As i said in my previous post for Melbourne, try to get the best hostel/room deals from hostelworld.com and travel sites, or if you're adventures you can try out couchsurfing.com. Your target would to be getting a bed/room for $30 or less

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As for Sydney, we stayed at Maze Backpackers at Pitt Street. We got ourselves a private room with bunk bed & shared bathroom which costed us $70 per night. as we thought we would like the privacy and it only costed us another extra $10 per night

The hostel we stayed at was pretty alright. 
- The bathrooms were clean
- The people who stayed there are pleasant and talkative
- Lights out at 11pm (which means no loud noises)
- There are themed nights that were pretty awesome.

For example, the theme nights we experienced are:
1) BBQ Night - Free burgers for all!
2) Chicken Rice night - Free chicken rice for all!
3) Billiard Night - No entry fee, knockout system, winner gets a $30 Bar Tab

So we covered the costs of 2 meals, and also you can negotiate deals with the hostels, for example, they'll give you a free nights stay if you help out at the kitchen during one of those nights!

Total accommodation cost:
$70 x 5 nights = $350 (Which is $175 per person)

Food at Sydney

Similar to Melbourne, You would need to budget out on the food here. Bring drinking water wherever you go to cut costs on drinks at public places. They'll charge you a good $3 just for drinking water. Tap water is drinkable there

Breakfast
- get a hot roll or pastries at the supermarket at about $3-$5

Lunch

- You would either choose to have a nice lunch/dinner with a cap of $15-$20
- For the other meal (dinner) you would have to do about $5-$10 (Which can be food courts or sushi takeout counters)
- One of the nice places to go is the Sydney Fish Market. Plenty of fresh seafood and be spoiled choice rotten


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Fish market (This was a $40 Meal for 2 pax)

Dinner

- Opt for fast food if you don't mind the callories (about $7 for McD or Hungry Jacks and get a free burger with a survey)
- We had 2 free dinners at the hostel
- My cousin Ruth treated us to a meal

Supper
- Cheap eats, either supermarket food / sushi rolls, capped at $4-5
- Sushi rolls  are about $5 for 3 during closing time, which can be shared out
- Got one free cheeseburger from Hungry Jacks
- My friends Ezreena & Jin treated us supper

If you have friends or relatives who treat you to a meal, that is a +1!

Total cost:

Breakfast: $3.50 x 6 days = $21
Lunch: $13 x 5 days = $65
Dinner: $17.5 x 2 nights = $35
Supper: $4 x 3 nights - $12

Optional: Cheap $4 Wine from the market x 2 nights

Total cost per person: $143

Attractions in Sydney


1) Free Walking Tours
There are 2 types of Free Walking Tours in Sydney, which are:
- Sydney Sights
- Sydney The Rocks

I would say this is the best way to get to know the city through the eyes of a local. These walking tours are Free and you're not obliged to pay anything. If you think the tour is good, you can tip the local guide on how much you think he/she is worth.

Sydney Sights Free Walking Tours are held twice a day at 10.30am & 2.30am and is about 2 1/2 hours long. The starting point is at Town Hall Square and will end at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From this we got to know a little more on the history of Sydney and how it became to the city it is today

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Town Hall Square

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Hello sydney!

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The old post office (behind)

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One of the cathedrals

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Queen Victoria Status in front of the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

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if you visit this street, you'll hear recorded sounds of birds chirping

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A hog, legend says if you touch its snout or penis, you get good luck

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Harbour bridge. Walk to the other end if you can

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The Harbour Bridge walk

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Pylon Lookout

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The view from harbour bridge


As for The Rocks Tour, it is held at 6pm daily and the meetup point is at Cadmans Cottage (river side). The rocks is actually the slum area of Sydney during the early days. You'll be able to hear lots of ghost, murder and interesting stories that happened in the past

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Cadman's cottage

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Early settlement remains

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The bar with a hidden trapdoor to kidnap people in the past

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Our guide for the rocks tour

Cost: I tipped $10 per tour

Total cost: $20

2) Sydney Taronga Zoo
When you're visiting Sydney, there are 2 places you can go to see wildlife which is either the Sydney Taronga Zoo, Sydney Wildlife or the Aquarium. If you have  limited time, you can always go to Sydney Wildlife or the Aquarium, but if you have a full day to spare, head over to the Taronga Zoo!

The Taronga Zoo is a boat ride away, and you can catch a ferry at Sydney Harbour. If you followed the Opal steps i wrote about earlier, your ferry ride would be free!

The Taronga Zoo features quite a lot of animals, and your favourite Australian favourites such as the Kangaroo, Koala and Wombat. There are a lot of animal shows that you can check out as well and the sea lion show was one of my favourites.

Cost: $38 per adult.
[in our case Ezreena lent us her zoo visitor day pass, so we shared the cost of the remaining $38 :), so our cost per person is only $19]

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Ferry ride to the zoo

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The zoo with a view

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Penguin's like wtf

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Hello there


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Mervyn, Suhui and their child *inside joke*

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Sealion show

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Kangaroos roaming

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Mr Koala

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okay the real one is here

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Wombats

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Roars!

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Oh the naughty devil

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They're gonna hear me roar!



3) Blue Mountains


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This requires a full day but the views are amazing. Remember to pack light and bring sufficient water for this trip. Take a trip up by train to the Blue Mountains area (Katoomba Station) in the morning (This would also be free if you have already gotten your 8 opal trips, if not it'll cost $15 for a return ticket), the ride itself would take about 2 hours. Upon arriving, you can get a small bite at the coles supermarket there or even the restaurants if your budget permits


We walked about 25 minutes, and we reached the 3 sisters lookout point. The view is amazing and when you read about the folklaw on how the 3 sisters were formed, it is pretty interesting. If you're adventures like us, we took a 2 hour trek through the mountains and reached Leura Cascades which brings a calm and serene feeling.

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Spring in the air

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Some graffiti on the way

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The three sisters

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=D

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Leura Cascades

Of course if you don't like a trek, you can opt for a tour bus over there which will cost about $22 which goes to the other attractions at blue mountains as well.

At the end of our trek, we arrived at Leura station which we took a train back to Sydney CBD.

cost: FREE. just food


4) Bondi Beach
A trip to Sydney is not complete without a trip to Bondi Beach. Its about a 20 minute bus ride from Sydney CBD (Opal card 8 trips applied, if not its $6+).

What I like about Bondi is that you can see HOT GIRLS IN BIKINIS, Street art, enjoy the beach, play with dogs over there, workout at the public gym and of course their famous Hurricane ribs.

cost: FREE, just food

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Bondi Beach

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Pretty grafitti

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More grafitti

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She just wanted to pole there

5) DFO

There are 2 Factory Outlets in Sydney and its a great place to buy your branded stuff at cheaper prices. So if you're into shopping, these are the places to get your cheap steals of Nike, Zara etc. Do check their websites as both stores carry different brands. I bought some clothing which amounted up to $30

cost: $30

Total cost of sightseeing, attractions and shopping: $88


So here is the total sum of my trip:

$37 - Transportation
$175 - Accommodation
$143 - Food
$88 - Attractions

$443 Grand Total (2.93 exchange rate - RM1298)

So totaling up with my Melbourne Trip (RM2,323) + Jetstar flights (RM300)

I only spent a total of RM3,921 for the entire 2 weeks! Who said it would be impossible within RM4k?

Anyway I hope this helped if you're planning a budget trip to Australia! Do beat me at it and let me know how much you spent!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Silkroad Experience: Journey of the orient

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Fresh from the event last Saturday. I was lucky enough to be invited to Silkroad 2016, which showcases how eastern culture influences the modern world today. It was held at Metal Bee's, Damansara, and as this is my first time there, it was pretty awesome!

A few other bloggers were invited too and definitely it was a great way to start the year with a classy event. One of the highlights? meeting up with Xiang after the longest time ever! We started blogging together back in 2009 (Yes we're such old people) but gotten busy since we both started work and its pretty hard to meet up lately

So what was in store for us? Check out the video I made:




Starting the experience, We took a walk past the beautiful paintings of Chinese Descent and took our first few photos at the Photowall. Silkroad was also giving away 3 Hennessy Limited XO bottles to the most creative photos and captions at the photowall! That got me really excited =D


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Xiang and I

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No its not a proposal. Just shooting the ever famous & beautiful Sandy Ryan Gan :) #contestkaki

We chilled at the lounge area while waiting for the other guest to arrive, and at the lounge itself, the oriental journey continued with a few activities planned out for us

For starters, we had a master calligrapher showcasing  the art of Rainbow Calligraphy. We wrote our names down and he beautifully crafted these masterpieces for us


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That's my name, Jianjian (Strong & Healthy)

The second part of the experiential journey is the art of tea making. I'm a guy who would just use teabags and soak it with hot water to get my tea fix and it amazes me when there are actually steps and requirements to follow to make the perfect tea.


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After the rest of the guest arrived, we were allowed into the dining area where we were serenaded by traditional Chinese music and really pretty kinetic ornaments which floated up and down from the ceiling. There was the Chinese classical band and Diana Liu singing classical Chinese songs which enlightened the mood


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*pic credit to Samantha


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Diana Liu


The cuisine of choice was fine dining, and it was prepared by Celebrity Chef Won & his culinary team from Enfin
With every dish presented, the atmosphere changed as the projectors showcased the theme for each dish. 

Check out the awesome food we had:


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For the first Entre, we had Scallop, Calamari, Citrus, Mints and Petals

Chef Won actually took the liberty of flying in fresh XL Hokkaido Scallops which was so juicy in the mouth. It was a total sensorial experience that  refreshes from smell to taste


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For our 2nd entre, we had Green Tea Salmon 40", smoked cucumber, textures of potato and green bleurre blanc

This was my personal favourite among all the dishes served. The wild salmon (not those farmed ones) was really succulent, and with the caramelized top, it made the dish just so mouth watering. Craved for so much more!


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The Main course served was Cordyceps Chicken on Chlorophyll carpet, porcini mushrooms and pates de riz. 

As Chef Won said, this is a high class chicken rice but it is definitely worth paying much more for. The cordyceps soup was so well balanced that allowed a clean aftertaste to linger on my palate. 


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We always have 2 stomachs. one for food and one for dessert! We had Plum, cheese, chocolate and basil

What i loved about it? The 70% dark chocolate was piped in ice water to create the perfect chocolate ball. The plums and cheese also was a great addition as they complimented each other's taste

To end the night, it is definitely time to take a wefie!


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*Photo credit to Jason/Michelle

It was a great experience which has broaden my mind on what eastern culture's influence was to the modern world today. Definitely can't wait for the next one!