Category Archives: NSW – Australia

Helensburgh Hindu temple

I am sure you get the vibe from my blog that I am not a very religious person but I do enjoy going to the temple occasionally. My husband always reminds me how religious my mum is and he finds it a bit surprising that I am not like my mum in the religion department. I always tell him, “If I have a clean heart and make sure that I am not hurting anyone in my day to day life, God will consider me as a good citizen and will be happy with me. There is no need to really visit a temple all the time or pray for hours :)”.

There are not that many Hindu temples in Sydney and most of them are not close to where I live so planning is required to visit one.

From time to time I feel like I should go to the temple and pay my respect so I drag my husband along for some prayer. Last weekend we managed to go to a temple in Helensburgh called Sri Venkateswara Temple. It is around 45 minutes’ drive from my apartment or an hour from Sydney city center (55km). The temple is built on top of a hilly area 400 feet above sea level. It has four ‘praharam’ (encircling corridors). Sri Venkateswara Temple was built in 1978 by the Indian people in Australia as a South Indian-style Hindu temple.

So far there is no Nepali temple in Sydney but they are planning to build a version of Nepal’s famous Pashupathi in Sydney.

At the temple devotees are supposed to leave their footwear outside and wash their hands and feet before they enter the temple. The temple area inside has small shrines for each of the Gods. There are priests performing rituals at each of the shrines at a pre-determined time.

There is a temple counter inside which provides visitors with more information about temple rituals and prayers.  They also sell puja for $15 which goes towards maintenance of the temple. You get a plate of puja which has Sindoor, flowers, dhup and fruits. Also, you can buy diyo (oil lamp) if you want to light just the diyo.

The temple has deities like Lord Venkateswara, Goddess Mahalakshmi ,Lord Chandramouleeswarar, Goddess Thripurasundari , Lord Ganesh, Lord Subrahmanya , Lord Navagraha, Goddess Durgambika , Lord Rama , Goddess Andal , Lord Krishna, Lord Brahma , Lord Hanuman, Lord Garuda  , Lord Sudharsana , Lord Viswakshena , Lord Dhakshinamurthy and Lord Chandikesa.

I have seen lots of South Indian weddings being performed inside the temple in my previous visits.

I know it doesn’t sound so right but I love to go to this temple because they serve a great Indian food in their canteen during weekends. I always have Masala Dosa (made by stuffing a lightly cooked filling of potatoes, fried onions and spices in a fermented crepe or pancake made from rice batter and black lentils) and Vada (a donut  shaped dish made from lentils and gram flour or potato) . They are so cheap but so yummy. They do sell other South Indian vegetarian dishes as well but those two are my favourite especially with masala tea (spiced Indian style milk tea).

The temple opens 8am – 7pm, week-ends and public holidays; 8.00am to 12.00pm and 4.00pm to 7.00pm on weekdays.

Chinese garden of Friendship

Last weekend, we went to visit a hidden treasure of Sydney, in the middle of the city in Darling Harbour.

Initiated by the local Chinese community to share their rich cultural heritage and celebrate Australia’s 1988 Bicentenary, the Chinese Garden is the result of a close bond of friendship and cooperation between the sister cities of Sydney and Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, China. The Chinese Garden of Friendship was designed by Sydney’s Chinese sister city, Guangzhou.

Even though I have been living in Australia for so long I have never been inside the Chinese garden. I have walked past the garden numerous times but for some reason never thought to go inside. Last weekend the weather was so good that I and my husband decided that we must go out and enjoy the sunny day. So we took a train to the city and walked to Darling Harbour from Town Hall train station.

We were in the garden by 11am and there were only 3 people on the queue to get tickets to go inside. We got the ticket and it cost us just $6.00. We started our tour from the right hand side door of the garden.

The whole garden cannot be seen from any one point within the garden. It has a number of features including the Dragon Wall symbolizing the bond between New South Wales and Guangzhou, the Water Pavilion of Lotus Fragrance, the Twin Pavilion and The Tea House that offers traditional Chinese tea and other refreshments. The garden is a popular venue for weddings, providing many beautiful backgrounds for photographs.

We were there to enjoy the day so we just walked around the garden and enjoyed the sun taking photos from time to time. There was a big pond in the middle of the garden and it had big colourful fishes. I actually forgot that we were in the middle of the city once we were inside. As spring has started here, there were so my beautiful flowers in the garden. I just loved everything in it: the trees, well-trimmed plants, beautiful spring flowers, calm lotus pond and the magnificent temple.

It was peaceful, serene, beautiful and calming. There is a waterfall which gives the feeling that you are in some national park. There are some alcoves to rest and overlook the whole garden to just soak in its natural beauty. We took so many photos as wherever I turned there was a beautiful view. The garden isn’t large but there are plenty of places to sit and take in the views. It took us about an hour to meander through the garden.

We saw a beautiful bridal carriage which is the imperial bridal carriage was used by Chinese Emperors in ancient times with extremely ornamental decorations. The jade carriage is typical of the historical carriages of past dynasties. It is believed 100 skilful artists were engaged in the laborious and intricate carving work. Over 300 tons of raw jade were used, the finished weight approx. 2 tons.

The carriage has a canopy decorated with entwining dragon motif with two lanterns in front. The main body of the carriage is carved into elaborate openwork of dragon, phoenix and fairies which are the symbol of Luck, Prestige and Authority. The two front shafts are cut as two lively charging dragons, guiding the carriage. Behind the carriage are two ornamental fans, which symbolise Royal Dignity.

The age and the cost of the carriage are unknown, however it is believed the carriage came from the Chinese Province of Guangdong and it is said to be the only carriage known to be outside China.

As we were walking around we saw a few people wearing traditional Chinese costumes and taking photos so we decided to find out more about it.

We found a place in one corner of garden where you can hire a costume for $10 and pretend to be a Princess/Queen/Emperor/Empress. They let you roam the garden with the costumes as long as you like and parade around the gardens and take as many photos as you like.

So me and AS decided to dress up as well and become Chinese for a while. I choose a red dress and the lady in the shop helped me to do my hair. AS choose a dark blue one and even got a long white beard to try with his costume. This was one of my favourite photos of the day.

Once we were dressed, the lady from the shop took a few of our photos. From there we walked the whole garden taking photos in different locations. We felt like we were in some movie walking around in the costumes and taking photos. Lots of people stopped to look at us and a few even asked us to pose so they could take a photo of us :). It was a really interesting experience to feel like we were in China.

I saw two girls wearing the costumes so we took photos with them as well. It was so much fun. I really loved it.

If you feel hungry there is a teahouse. You can also hire a 45-minute audio tour in English and Mandarin, if you like.

For the price, we had an amazing day, relaxing and wonderful.

Featherdale Wildlife Park

As I had written in my last post about discovering more of Australia, we went to Featherdale Wildlife Park in Doonside last weekend. Even though I have lived in Sydney for so long and the park is only 40 minutes’ drive from our place, I had never visited the park before. I went there with my hubby, my cousin S didi, her husband and her 5 years old kid. Out of all of us, my nephew had the most fun being up close with Australian native animals including Koala, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Crocodile, Dingos, Goannas, Penguins, Tasmanian Devils, Wombats, Echidna and many more.

As spring is here we did not need thick jackets and scarfs. It was a nice sunny day too and an easy drive to Doonside. We arrived at the park around 11am and were lucky to get the last parking spot. The entry price for adults is $27 and for kids is $15.

Wallaby

The Featherdale Wildlife Park has an extensive collection of Australian wildlife – birds, mammals, and reptiles. I really like the way they housed the animals, each enclosure reflected the native habitat of the animals, like mountains, grasslands, and coastal region. At the same time, many of the animals like kangaroos, emus, wallabies, peacocks and some birds run free.

As soon as we walked in, we were welcomed by lots of birds like Galah, Long billed Corella, Sulphur crested Cockatoo. But my attention was quickly diverted when I saw so many Wallabies running freely. There were many visitors patting and feeding these Wallabies. I waited for our turn and managed to pat, feed and take photos with them too. And my nephew was super excited to see these animals moving free. He kept on screaming ‘Kangaroos’ and we had to keep correcting him that it was Wallabies 🙂

All the animals are native to Australia so you get a lot of information about them as you wander around the park. As we walked on we saw more beautiful birds like parrots, owls, kites, eagles, kookaburras and many more.

feeding Kangaroo

Owl

Koala

As we reached the area where there were lots of cuddly koalas, I was really excited as we got to pat the little fellow. It is nice to be able to touch them and take a picture without having to pay extra unlike other places where they charge $25 just to take a picture with them.

Next stop was a dark hut where they had a place for bats and bilby. The bats looked like they were sleeping but the bilby were just playing around. They looked so cute. My nephew went to see the bats two more times later in the day as he was so excited.

As we walk around we could hear lots of birds making different kinds of noise. At one corner was a big crocodile lazily sun bathing. It was not as big as the one I saw in Sydney Wild Life Park but still looked fierce and dangerous.

The other thing I got to pat that day was the wombats. Wombats are short-legged, muscular native to Australia, approximately 1 metre in length with a short, stubby tail. Even though they are big they looked so cute and their fur is fluffy and soft.

Wombat

Next stop was the reptile area where they house Turtles, Lizards and Snakes. They were a bit creepy but it was fun to see so many different varieties of snakes.  On our way out we saw Emu and peacocks as well.

Emu

Peacocks

From there we went to the farmyard where they had farm animals to play with. They had hens, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, guinea pigs and many more. Some of the goats were a bit scary as they were really big but I managed to get one white baby goat. He was really gentle so I picked him up. My nephew was so excited to pat him.

Farm animals

As it was lunch time by then, we decide to go to the picnic area and prepare lunch. We had some marinated meat which we barbequed and also had churaa, aloo ko achar and badmas saneko. AS and R Bhinaju were busy with the BBQ so I had some time to entertain my nephew with bubbles. It was fun to see him chasing and trying to catch the bubbles.

After the meat were cooked, we all ate and rested for a while. As always, homemade lunch does a good trick to fill you and satisfy at the same time. There were lots of families with kids enjoying their lunch in the sunny afternoon. For people who didn’t bring their own lunch, fresh hot dogs was available for just $2.50. There was also a small café inside the park.

Echidna

After that we went around and saw more animals like Dingos, Goanna, Penguins, Tasmanian Devils, and Echidna. When we reached Echidna enclosure, we realised that the feeding time for them was a few minutes away so we waited for the keeper to come around. Echidnas are also known as spiny ant eaters. The keeper brought food for them which was minced liver mixed with some water. He gave us some interesting facts about the animal and we were allowed to pat it. Even though their body was covered with spines, if you know how to pat, which the keeper shows how, they seem gentle and you don’t get pricked.

We then went around taking photos, enjoying the area and looking at more animals. Then we all decided that it was time for us to head home.

I’m really happy with our day out. It is definitely a place to go with kids as they get so excited to see all these animals. My nephew’s excitement on the day was priceless.

Snowy Mountains: Australia

I guess lots of people living in US and Canada will call us crazy but we do drive 7 hours to play with snow. There is no snowfall in Sydney so we have to jump into a car and drive almost half a day to reach Perisher or Thredbo to play with snow during winter. And last weekend that is what we decided to do, take a visit to a winter wonderland :). We were 8 people altogether which included my hubby, my cousin K didi, her husband and her son and 3 of their friends.

Perisher valley

So we left Sydney after work on Friday to be get to the mountain early morning Saturday. The drive down there was not much fun as it was cold and dark. We stopped at one shop for coffee and cookie and to hire some gear.

We hired snow trousers, jackets and walking boots. We all decided to hire toboggans instead of ski or snow board because it is much easier. I fell so many times while trying to learn how to ski in the past that it was not fun at all. Generally a normal skier would spend the majority of their time skiing and a fraction of their time falling so I knew already that I don’t have ski genes within me. And ohoo how can I forget all the pain and body aches the next day. I really wanted to avoid that this time as my body is still in recovery mode from last weekend’s City2Surf run.

Perisher valley

Perisher valleyAnyway, from there our next stop was the Perisher valley. Perisher Valley (elevation 1720m) is a ski resort village in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, in the Snowy River Shire. It is located within the Kosciuszko National Park between beautiful Jindabyne and Charlotte Pass on the Kosciuszko Road.

Perisher valley

Perisher valleyPerisher valleyThe place looked really beautiful with snow everywhere. We got lucky as it snowed the day before so there was 27cm of fresh snow to play with. The lift to the mountains was not opened then so there were not that many people around. I have to admit it was really cold so we decide to have breakfast before we stared to play in the snow.

Perisher valley

Perisher valleyAfter breakfast we took our toboggans and made our way uphill. First we stared on a small hill to get the hang of the toboggan and later went to the big hill. My nephew who is nearly five was enjoying his ride as well. He would come down and immediately walk his way up the hill. It was a really exciting experience. After may be 10 rides, it started getting hot but AS didn’t let me take my jacket off as he said I might get sick later. I know he does look after me  🙂

Perisher valley

Perisher valleyWe also had some fun with snow war. As we were talking photos, I went and stood behind AS. So while he was posing, I took a heap of snow and started the fight. I knew he was not going to leave me alone after that. It was so much fun. Later everyone joined the fight including my nephew who was having the time of his life.

Perisher valley

Perisher valley

Perisher valley

How could a snow trip be successful without a snowman? Someone started the snowman on the top of the mountain which we continued and he looked beautiful with my gloves and muffler :). We all posed to take our photo with the snowman.

Perisher valley

Perisher valley

By midday we all were starving so we decided to have a break and went for lunch. We had brought some dry home cooked lunch and it tasted the best after so much energy was lost. On the way to the eating area it started snowing as well.

Perisher valleyAfter the break, we took our toboggans again and continued the ride for rest of the day.

Perisher valleyPerisher valleyOn the higher hills, I could see people skiing and snowboarding. I do want to learn how to do that well without falling of course but I really enjoyed what we did.  It was really fun. Planning for next trip to snow already for the next year  🙂

Please click here for more photos.

Perisher valley

Perisher valley

Trip to Blue Mountains

Last Saturday, we decided to take a day trip to Blue Mountains and we had an awesome time. I went there with my husband, my brother and his wife, my cousin, her husband and her 4 years old son and a friend of mine with his wife.

Blue Mountains are around two hours drive from Sydney and it is one of the popular tourist destinations. It is one of those destinations where you can drive from point to point in a car stopping at different view points for stunning views or you can bush walk for hours to get from one great location to another. The roads are also very scenic.

The Greater Blue Mountains Area was unanimously listed as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO on29 November 2000. The area totals roughly 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi), including the Blue Mountains, Kanangra-Boyd, Wollemi, Gardens of Stone, Yengo, Nattai and Thirlmere Lakes National Parks, plus the Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve.

One of the visitors we met there asked me if I knew why Blue Mountain is called Blue Mountains so I did my research and here is the explanation.

The mountains in the Blue Mountains look blue and their blueness comes from the way that the light hits the mist which rises from the eucalyptus trees which cover almost every inch of them.

On the way to Blue Mountains, there are lots of ice parks, lakes and falls. One of them is Wentworth Falls. When we got to Wentworth Falls, we were hungry so we decide to take a break in Wentworth Falls Park before bush walking. We ate our nice homemade lunch and went to the Conservation Hut to start our bush walking.

The track signs said an hour for the trip but I guess we took longer as we took lots of photos on the way. The walking tracks were really well maintained so even my 4 year old nephew easily walked without any help. We saw some amazing views on the way to the fall. Along with spectacular views, we saw kookaburras, parrots, lizards, spiders and colourful songbirds.

Once we were at the bottom of the waterfall it looked just beautiful. It looked like it came out of the National Geographic Channel. It was so cool and refreshing. There were lots of tourists enjoying the view.

After resting for a while, we made our way back to the car and went to see the mountains. The most famous piece of the Blue Mountains can be found in Katoomba as Echo Point. When Oprah was here shooting her final shows, it was one of the place she visited.

As the day was sunny, we had a great time going around the lookouts and taking some really nice shot. The Three Sisters looked beautiful from the view point but for those of you who love walking, you can actually hike down to the base of one for a dizzyingly spectacular perspective.

Ever time I visited Blue Mountains before, I took the Scenic tour which consists of

  • Skyway – The Skyway takes you on a 720 metre journey, 270m above ancient ravines and dazzling waterfalls.  You are suspended over Jurassic rainforests as you glide smoothly across the sky.
  • Cableway – The Scenic Cableway takes you on a 545 metre ride into – or out of – the World Heritage-listed rainforest of the Jamison Valley.
  • Railway – The 415m descent railway will take you through a cliff side tunnel down into an ancient rainforest.  The Scenic Railway can carry up to 84 passengers and operates every 10 minutes.
  • Walkway- Discover over 2.8kms of boardwalk through the ancient rainforest, including 380 metres of wheel chair accessible walkway

It is a must do if anyone is going to Blue Mountains for the first time. This time we skipped it and decided to walk most of the places.

Overall great day with plenty of exercise. 🙂

Sydney Aquarium

I hadn’t been to Sydney aquarium for many years, so a few weeks ago, AS and I decided to go there as it was a rainy Saturday afternoon as there wasn’t much we could do outdoors. Sydney Aquarium in situated on the eastern edge of Darling Harbour and is close to the heart of the city. The cost of entry for an adult is AU$35 per person.

When we went to buy the ticket, we realised that lots of people, especially families with young kids and tourist had the same idea as we did. So there was a bit of a wait before we could get inside. Once inside, there were a large variety of fish and water creatures like huge sharks, massive stingrays, majestic turtles, jellyfish, platypuses, penguins, and sea dragons.

There were many interesting Lego structures which wasn’t there on my last visit. I later learned that they are aquatic inspired constructions containing around 20000 pieces of Lego.

There was a section called Great Barrier Reef and I swear I saw all the fishes there which I had seen while snorkelling in Great Barrier Reef itself. They were so colourful with similar coral around them. All sorts of tropical fish, sharks and rays darted about the coral reef formations swimming over creatures that live on the ocean floor including lobsters and sea cucumbers.

The best part of all was the underwater tunnel. There were so many sharks and sting rays that we spent more than 30 minutes looking at them.  I felt really excited when a three-metre shark or giant sting ray glided silently above me :).

Luckily we were there when they had shark feeding as well where one of the keepers told us many things about the sharks and sting rays in the tank.

 A few facts I learnt that day.

  • Opened in 1988, Sydney Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world.
  • Six million litres of water house this varied and colourful exhibit.
  • They have beautiful dugongs – 2 of only 5 on display anywhere in the world
  • Almost every Australian sea and major waterway is represented at the Sydney Aquarium: from the open sea to the Great Barrier Reef, to the Australian Bight and Sydney Harbour, to the Murray-Darling river system, the rivers of the Far North, mangrove habitats, rocky shores.
  • Some of its displays are contained in the main exhibit hall, others in one of the three large floating oceanariums.
  • A large purpose-built tank called Mermaid Lagoon is where the rather adorable Dugongs Pig and Wuwu call home. Most Dugongs spend their time in warmer northern Australian waters and they are a strictly marine herbivores.
  • Little Penguins are on display in a large tank replicating their natural habitat which stretches around southern Australia from northern NSW all the way to southern WA, and can include Sydney Harbour.
  • There are a number of shark exhibits at the aquarium. Together they tell the story and life cycle of sharks and also their relationship with man.

The aquarium is great for kids (and adults) who can appreciate the cool things the world can offer like sharks and turtles. I really enjoyed my day out and if you ever visit Sydney, I think this should be one of the places to go on your list.

For more information on the aquarium, please visit their site

http://www.sydneyaquarium.com.au/


Hunter Valley

Over the weekend we took a trip up the coast to Hunter Valley. It is around 300 km north of Sydney and is the wine country of NSW. It is the place to go for wine tasting and to enjoy the scenic landscape. They also do cheese and olive tasting. Aside from being a foodies dream, the Hunter Valley is steeped in quaint history and historical architecture, much of which you can learn about by visiting the various museums and historical tours. The Hunter Valley also boasts an abundance of wildlife in a world-class national park and one of Australia’s most scenic golf courses. 

It was a bit wet in Sydney so I was glad to get away. Me, AS and my friends SS and PA got into the car and off we went for our trip. On the way it was raining heavily at places so we didn’t know what to expect when we reached our destination but we were relieved when we found it was not raining in the valley. 

There are lots of tours on offer but we decided to set our own path. 

The first stop was the Hunter Valley Gardens. It is one of the places I visit every time I go to Hunter. I had been there many times, mainly to take all my visitors for a trip. But it was everyone else’s first time in Hunter so it was nice to see them excited with the view of gardens. 

Its website has the following description for the gardens. 

“Spanning over 60 acres, be amazed by the sensational sights, colours, and fragrances of the ten stunning feature gardens. Explore each garden one-by-one and enjoy an exciting journey through the thousands of flowers, trees, and shrubs with an air of discovery at every turn. Bask in a lavish array of colour and scent found in the Rose Garden with more than 8,000 roses on display; laze above the 10 metre waterfall and take in the superb views from the lookout; or step back in time with all our favourite fairytale characters in the Storybook Garden. 

The gardens will heighten your senses with a wonderful display of sight, colour and fragrance.Hunter Valley Gardens is also wheelchair friendly and allows access to all areas. You can find out more here about wheelchairs availability at Garden Entry. Along the eight kilometres of walking paths are more than six thousand trees, one million ground covers and six hundred thousand shrubs. A floral display featuring a variety of plants and statuary, all of a standard that you won’t see elsewhere in Australia. From the main entrance, the visitor will enter through many feature gardens full of breathtaking surprises!” 

I love every corner of the garden and I have so many beautiful photos from the day. It was just such a colourful place to be. There were a few weddings happening while we were there. We had lunch in the café there before going for horse riding (I am going to write a separate post about my experience of it). I had creamy pasta and it was one of the best I have tried. I highly recommend stopping over at the café for lunch if anyone is ever going there. 

I should say the horse riding experience was bumpy and gave me a sore bum at the end but I did enjoy it. 

Then we were off to some wineries where we got to see the ripe grape vines and took some silly photos. It felt so unreal to stand in the middle of acres of grape vines. I just loved the smell of the fresh air and to see bunches of grapes ready to be picked. When you drive pass the area, all you see is grape vines and lots of cows and horses. I felt like I was far far away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s traffic and crowds. 

Overall a great day in a nice country town. Here are some photos of the day.