Sunday, 19 July 2015

Australian Museum, Sydney

We chanced upon this museum during one of our unplanned noon wanderings in the city! This is the oldest museum in Australia established at its present location in 1849. We were taken up by its sheer size! Being a Natural History museum, it covered a vast array of subjects and we felt lost, not knowing where to begin with, this despite two wings of the museum being closed for expansion and renovation!

The museum itself is a lovely maze of floors connected by spacious elevators and grand stairways. They have a decently stocked rooftop cafe too!

We headed straight to the section on “Skeletons” since that was what intrigued Del the most! Since skeletons are not really something that interests me, I kept nudging Del to keep moving on just when he spotted a cycle which he could ride on with a skeleton by his side! The delight on his face and the spring in his step racing towards the cycle would make anyone believe that it was one of a kind of a discovery in the museum itself!

The dinosaur section was engaging with interactive displays, as well as, miniature set ups for those interested in trying their hand at excavation. Infact, during our visit, a large piece of sedimentary rock was kept on a huge table, and the entire area cordoned off with yellow tape with a little board requesting visitors not to touch any of it and that a team of young researchers were working on it. It was wonderful looking up at the huge dinosaur casts!

Coelcanth - Living Fossil
It was exciting seeing a living fossil, so called because the Coelcanths were thought to have become extinct about 90 million years ago. However, in 1938, a living Coelcanth was netted in the Indian Ocean!

It was enchanting looking at the different birds of Australia. They were stuffed and well preserved which made them appear to be alive, seemingly posing, so that we could have a good look at them! A couple of artists equipped with various kinds of pencils and pieces of lead made themselves comfortable on the floor, lost in the sketching of the different birds and mammals on display. There were plenty of insects and reptiles too!

Cone shells - Stinging shells
Since Del and I love collecting shells, we were attracted towards the exhibits displaying them. We were stunned when we read that live cone shells could be very dangerous to the extent of immobilizing humans with their lethal venom, unfortunately for which no anti-venom is available!

Ten day old Polar Bear cubs
Another area which caught my eye was the section on Mammals. We were moved looking at the two ten day old Polar bear cubs who died in the London Zoological Gardens and were acquired in 1924.

Eastern Quoll
Also, fascinating to look at was the Eastern Quoll, which became extinct from the mainland in 1963. This quoll was hit by a car and acquired in 1948.

Marsupial Lion
Then there was the extinct marsupial lion (a crafted exhibit I assume) who is closely related to the wombats and koalas.

An extensive collection of books sits in their library with an adjoining section housing the various kind of equipments and articles used by our early ancestors. Also sections of cupboards with narrow drawers holding various specimens of insects, eggs etc. were on display. Many young scientists and researchers were busy at their computers examining specimens, researching matter etc.

It was interesting seeing a 2800 year old mummy in a coffin having a lovely display of artwork, probably indicative of the status and position of that person in society.

Our visit concluded at the mineral section of the museum, an outstanding collection by Albert Chapman.

Even two whole days wouldn’t suffice to do justice to this rich institution, let alone a couple of hours! Be that at it may, we were content with an opportunity to spend a noon at this amazing place!

- Aarina

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Madame Tussauds Museum, Sydney

At the entrance of the museum, we were greeted by a rather cheerful lady and, as part of the protocol for many of the tourist attractions like the Aquarium, Sydney tower, the train ride at Blue Mountains etc., we were made to pose for a couple of photographs.  These photographs were then photoshopped on certain images of the exhibits within the given attraction and kept for purchase at the Souvenir store at the exit.

Like most other touristy attractions, this one too was accompanied by loud music, the only solace being that it wasn’t crowded. Hence, we were at our own pace when it came to admiring the life size statutes.

There were many interactive exhibits where one could sit on a chair or a sofa opposite the statute, or wear a hat or pose for a cricket shot with a bat and helmet on or use a golf tee and play along with a ball and yes, there was a hole and a golf buggy too!

It was interesting seeing statutes of political figures, pop artists, actors, sports persons, a couple of scientists and doctors, all of them in their life size versions.

Del was thoroughly enjoying himself, lost in posing with every statute that had some kind of prop available to entertain himself. I was feeling rather amused and entertained myself at the kind of joy and delight on Del’s face as he posed alongside the statues! The little child in him was certainly out and at play!

The final section of the museum was very informative with a lot of matter on the making and painting of the statues, the techniques and instruments used for the same etc. Workshops too were being conducted for those interested in preliminary sculpting and painting.

- Aarina

Friday, 10 July 2015

Wildlife Sydney Zoo


A train ride to the Circular Quay Station, followed by a ferry ride from the Circular Quay wharf to the Darling Harbour wharf, followed by a pleasant and an interesting walk by the promenade took us to the Sydney Zoo. We enjoyed our ferry ride on the open section of the upper deck of the ferry with the sun beating down and the breeze in equal completion to cool us down. However, fifteen minutes later, the heat from the sun seemed to drain us out and we were forced to move into the sheltered section of the ferry. Our ten minute walk along the darling harbor was exciting; we were impressed seeing the various yachts anchored alongside with advertisements about hosting wedding receptions, corporate events etc. for those whose pockets ran real deep!

At the zoo, with our multiple pass on us, our entry was quick. After being rather enchanted at the Aquarium, we were excited about this visit, but were soon met with great disappointment! There were a number of school students who as part of their school excursion had to learn about the wildlife in the various exhibits, make notes and supposedly, periodically, fill up their worksheets. This process by itself seemed quite a spectacle with children sprawled all over the floor, with some leaning against the walls, a few others walking and learning from the touchscreen device placed besides the various exhibits. All of this, accompanied by a lot of chatter and banter with an intermittent, “Please be softer”, by one of the many teachers, in addition to, the music that was being played rather loudly in the background, once again, the kind of music depended on the wildlife in the given section!

The zoo was not really big with most of the animals looking sad and sluggish. Having said that, the effort put in to maintain such a space with trees and with certain sections having access to the open is truly commendable! There were koalas one could touch and be photographed with, kangaroos could be fed and touched; all of these activities strictly conducted by the staff only.

Talks on the different wildlife present in the zoo are conducted through the day. We may have spent less than an hour trying to get a glimpse of some of the wildlife while learning interesting and amusing facts, one of them being, “A Koala Joey’s first solid meal is their Mother’s poo.”

It was a hurried visit, had we known better, we would have definitely given this place a miss!

- Aarina

P.S. Since Delson is back to work and isn't around to edit the images, for those who are following our blog will notice a drastic difference (unfortunately for the worse) in the images posted because I am truly at an amateur in this art or rather any art! Do pardon my shoddy work!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

China Town and Paddy Market

We felt our trip to Sydney would be rather incomplete without a visit to China Town.

It was nice walking through a Paifang which is a Chinese styled arch, on a clean street which is accessible only to pedestrians and lined by restaurants on either side. Although, it was crowded, there was an old world kind of charm to the place; walking past eateries with every person trying to woo you to walk into their restaurant.

We finally settled for the New Tai Yuen Restaurant where we were treated to food by Don. It was great knowing that the staff were aware about a gluten free diet. They altered my order accordingly to accommodate my diet request. For the first time, I enjoyed sipping on hot green tea in the cold from tiny little tea cups just before a meal! With the exception of me, although everyone else at the table was quite adept at using chopsticks, my awkwardness prompted one of the staff to suggest that we could all eat with the usual cutlery! Ah! Such a relief! Ever since my visit to this restaurant, I have been meaning to learn how to eat with chopsticks. Hope that day dawns quicker than sooner!

After an enjoyable meal, we stopped for dessert at Yogurberry. Well, this needs special mention because I goofed up here, overfilling my large cup with frozen yogurt, wondering how will I get through all of it when the sweet lady standing behind the counter with an expression that read, “I don’t know what were you thinking!” politely said, “Now that is a loooooooooot of Yoghurt!!!!” (with eyes wide and the head nodding up and down in disbelief)! Well, all I can say is that I am grateful for a husband who can actually consume large portions of food. Having said that, Del you need to know that I still stand by my opinion of reducing the portion size of your food. The trash can is always an option you know!

We then headed into Paddys Market which felt much like the Crawford Market area of Mumbai. There were stalls all over with all kinds of stuff being sold. Del couldn’t resist from purchasing a Didgeridoo, a musical instrument used by the Aborigines. I was successful in containing him from buying more boomerangs and every other weapon that was on display to be sold! Not to forget the Samurai swords that were on sale which drew both Don and Del hoping that they could get their hands on one! Prohibitive prices or Custom issues or common sense, or a combination of all the three, I do not know which of it finally prevailed!

It was wonderful touching the Kangaroo fur and rather amusing to see the kangaroo’s scrotal sacs as part of the keychains on sale! Our two little nieces were excited wanting to see, touch and own everything possible! It was fun listening to the younger one warning the older one against asking us to buy anything for the two of them, gently reminding her about Alvi’s instructions, while at the same time, trying to work a deal with Don, “If you buy this for me, then you do not have to give me pocket money for the rest of the year etc. “

Walking past the stalls with the constant background chatter of such delightful conversation and Don’s admirable patience with the kids added to the fun. After a couple more buys, we decided to call it a day and headed back home.

P.S. Unfortunately, no photographs clicked on our visit to these places.

- Aarina