Vivid Syd­ney

The city’s vi­brant cul­ture and vi­va­cious peo­ple make for a be­daz­zling visit.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my Sto­ries by FOO YEE PING

OKAY, so you have had self­ies taken at all the pre­req­ui­site Syd­ney land­marks, from the Opera House to Dar­ling Har­bour. That, un­for­tu­nately, does not mean you can say “been there, done that” as there are so many other ways to ex­plore the city that pro­duced hot­ties like Hugh Jackman and Mi­randa Kerr.

So par­don me for hav­ing the brag­ging rights of see­ing Syd­ney from a huge, mean ma­chine. Shelby’s Side­car Tours of­fer trav­ellers a chance to cruise the streets of Syd­ney on their clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle side­cars ... that’s a mo­tor­bike with three wheels and a side car­riage for a three­some – the rider, you and your com­pan­ion.

It was a lovely, cool morn­ing, around 16°C in June, when I hopped onto one of these vin­tage-style lit­tle mon­sters. But don’t think of roar­ing around to sat­isfy your in­ner Mat Rem­pit, for you would be dis­ap­pointed. Shelby rid­ers cruise at about 35km per hour.

Do­minic, a Syd­neysider, was my rider. He is a charm­ing fel­low; he helped me with my hel­met and pro­vided nuggets of in­for­ma­tion about the places that we passed by. He even pointed out a pricey apart­ment block where ac­tor Mel Gib­son once bought a unit. (It piqued the pa­parazzo in me.)

It’s cliched but there’s noth­ing quite like the wind in your face as you ride past iconic land­marks and me­an­der through the lo­cal neigh­bour­hoods. Passers-by and chil­dren smiled and waved at us. It was a case of “to­day, all my trou­bles seemed so far away” dur­ing that re­lax­ing two-hour ride.

Lights on for caf­feine

At one point, we stopped for cof­fee. Aussies are very proud of their brew. Al­most ev­ery­where I went, some­one would say, “Aus­tralia’s cof­fee is great.”

Dur­ing our me­dia group’s visit, our host took us to The Grounds of Alexan­dria, which brands it­self as a “land­mark cof­fee roast­ery”. Most of us opted for the “de-con­structed iced cof­fee” (A$8 or RM26) con­sist­ing of a house blend cof­fee shot, cold brewed cof­fee, iced, su­gar syrup (which comes in a sy­ringe) and milk.

De-con­structed cof­fee, which ba­si­cally means that the drink is served to you in sep­a­rate parts, caused quite a stir last year. Not ev­ery­one is a fan, though. An Aussie writer, who found out about de-con­structed cof­fee in Mel­bourne, wrote on Face­book: “I wanted a cof­fee. Not a sci­ence ex­per­i­ment. Hip­ster­ism has gone too far when your cof­fee comes de-con­structed.”

Java jolt over, it’s time to take a walk. Check out the an­nual Vivid Syd­ney, billed as the world’s largest Fes­ti­val of Light, Mu­sic and Ideas. Vivid Syd­ney is an an­nual event that fea­tures light­ing in­stal­la­tions, and mu­sic events in the city. This year, it took place from May 26 till June 17, trans­form­ing the Opera House and sur­round­ing area into a canvas of Aus­tralian indige­nous art.

Other cap­ti­vat­ing scenes in­cluded the sun­flow­ers’ light sculp­tures that were put up at the Royal Botanic Gar­den and the fire­works

over Dar­ling Har­bour on cer­tain nights.

Get­ting a peek in

Why not ex­plore neigh­bour­hoods that are off the tourists’ beaten track? Cul­ture Scouts walk­ing tours will take you into the sub­urbs and peek into the lives, cul­ture and her­itage there.

Our guide was a lo­cal named Sophia de Mestre. Her pas­sion for her Syd­ney kam­pung shone through as we strolled through the neigh­bour­hoods of Chip­pen­dale and Red­fern. She spoke en­thu­si­as­ti­cally about graf­fiti and mu­rals painted with the per­mis­sion of build­ing own­ers, be­ing part of the cul­ture there.

Art gal­leries are within walk­ing dis­tance of one an­other here. There’s Ga­lerie Pom­pom, a com­mer­cial gallery which dis­plays works by emerg­ing and mid-ca­reer artists.

There is also the White Rab­bit Gallery, which houses one of the world’s most sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tions of con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese art. It is owned by Ju­dith Neil­son, one of Aus­tralia’s rich­est, and ap­par­ently quite a colour­ful char­ac­ter.

“She walked into the of­fice (of ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Smart), look­ing scruffy, and told him to de­sign a mu­seum to house her art col­lec­tion. Af­ter 20 min­utes, Wil­liam re­alised that she was se­ri­ous,” de Mestre said, en­thralling my group with many sto­ries about Neil­son.

Smart was also the de­signer of Neil­son’s house in Chip­pen­dale. The house, named Indigo Slam, won the top award for house de­sign at last year’s Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects Na­tional Awards.

The walk­ing tour also cov­ered Chip­pen­dale’s lat­est pride – Cen­tral Park – a down­town des­ti­na­tion where a global col­lab­o­ra­tion of ar­chi­tects and artists have cre­ated an ex­cit­ing ur­ban vil­lage.

Speak­ing of land­marks, the Syd­ney Opera House comes to mind, im­mor­talised in count­less pho­to­graphs, brochures, post­cards and fridge mag­nets out there.

Aus­tralia’s num­ber one tourist des­ti­na­tion of­fers back­stage tours to of­fer tourists a glimpse at what goes on be­hind the scenes. Our guide was an earnest Aussie named Jes­sica who re­galed us with sto­ries about the ar­chi­tect from Den­mark who de­signed the Opera House; how his in­spi­ra­tion came from the act of peel­ing an orange and get­ting all the seg­ments/ shapes.

No de­tail is too mi­nus­cule for Jes­sica. She would even tell you the ma­te­ri­als used for the seats in­side the per­form­ing arts cen­tre.

But don’t just visit such a high­brow place. Get grounded at the Q Sta­tion, where those en­ter­ing Aus­tralia be­tween 1883 and 1984 were quar­an­tined.

These were con­victs, mi­grants or crew mem­bers on ships. Our guide Mau­reen told sto­ries about how the new ar­rivals back then were made to shower, clean them­selves, and then iso­lated for ob­ser­va­tion if they were sus­pected to be sick.

The tour ends at the morgue in the Q Sta­tion and Mau­reen threw in a harm­less, “creepy” story – one for the road. It is, af­ter all, a place where hun­dreds of peo­ple died of ill­nesses such as the bubonic plague and Span­ish In­fluenza.

But don’t fret about visit­ing Q Sta­tion. The only con­ta­gious thing I caught from there is the itch to visit Down Un­der again.

The me­dia fa­mil­iari­sa­tion trip to Syd­ney and Snowy Moun­tains was spon­sored by Des­ti­na­tion NSW. For more info go to http://www.des­ti­na­tionnsw.com.au/.

— JAMES HO­RAN/Des­ti­na­tion NSW

Vivid Syd­ney 2017’s pre­view at Dar­ling Har­bour.

— Des­ti­na­tion NSW

The city is all lit up as Vivid Syd­ney put on their an­nual show of lights.

— ARIFF SHAH SOPIAN/AirAsia X

de Mestre, a scout leader from Cul­ture Scouts Walk­ing Tours, ex­plain­ing the street art in Chip­pen­dale.

— Pho­tos: FOO YEE PING/The Star

Part of Cen­tral Park, Syd­ney’s new down­town des­ti­na­tion. The apart­ment com­plex has hang­ing ver­ti­cal gar­dens. Also seen here is Halo, a wind pow­ered ki­netic sculp­ture.

— Shelby’s Side­car Tours

A rider from Shelby’s Side­car Tours tak­ing a pas­sen­ger on a spin around Syd­ney.

Books on learn­ing Man­darin be­ing sold at the White Rab­bit Gallery.

In­side the Syd­ney Opera House.

A mu­ral to de­pict the mes­sage ‘united we stand, di­vided we fail’ at Red­fern.

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