Thursday, March 27, 2014

Australia Day 29: Chinatown (part 2), Paddy's Market, The Rocks and Darlinghurst

The next morning we did our Starbucks wifi pilgrimage, then rejoined our third member to hit up a yum cha restaurant in Chinatown. Yum cha, for the uninitiated, is what we in the US tend to call dim sum. Dim sum, however, only refers to the actual food in a yum cha dining experience. Yum cha is the act of eating dim sum dishes and drinking the ubiquitous green tea that accompanies them. In fact, the words “yum cha” translate to “drink tea.” So there you go.

The restaurant we went to was called Marigold – another recommendation of our local trip advisor Baron. Marigold takes up the top two floors of one of the many malls in Chinatown. The dining experience is the typical yum cha whirlwind of aggressive serving, constant consumption and choice paralysis. I have always been an adventurous eater and things like tripe, intestine, haggis and hotdogs don’t faze me one bit, and I took the opportunity to convince my party to try one of the braver dim sum dishes – chicken feet.

mmmmm feet...
Chicken feet are just that, the lower leg joint and claw of the chicken, slow braised until all that tough, usually inedible cartilage gets soft and succulent. Chicken feet taste just fine. It’s like eating the skin off a braised piece of chicken. The practice of eating chicken feet however is a bit of a trial, as they are almost all bone, gristle and skin – and the bones are teeny tiny. Justin and I managed the experience just fine, but Oscar, upon taking one too many close looks at the little claws, started to get a bit anxious about the chicken feet. Food anxiety is something I am entirely foreign with, but we made the feet disappear for Oscar’s benefit and moved on.

Sure you hear the water and the birds...but do you
hear the grasshopper, which is at your feet?
Next we went to the Chinese Friendship Garden, located just south of Darling Harbour. By the time we got there it was once again pouring, but after a few minutes we decided to enter regardless and try our luck ducking into the various shrines, walkways and tea rooms of the garden to escape the rain. Well worth the AUD $6 admission for adults, the Friendship Garden is absolutely beautiful and perfectly located for tourists. It was designed by architects in Guangzhou as a symbol of the friendship between China and Australia and is packed with beautiful plants, buildings and wildlife. Because it was raining we became intimately familiar with Australia’s various spiders, as they camped out in the upper reaches of the open air walkways. One of them even descended right in front of us to remind us that terror lurks in the most serene places. Thank you, giant spider, for the life lesson.

I'm pretty sure the bird knew how awesome he
was looking...
The central pond of the garden was full of huge koi, whose occasional wild urges prompted them to leap out of the water in an ebullient display of acrobatics. There was also a very tenacious crane perched atop one of the rock sculptures in the lake, who posed brilliantly for some pictures. The garden also housed a very nice looking tea room overlooking the lake, of which we did not partake.

The rest of the afternoon was spent tying up loose ends of our tragically brief Sydney trip. First we returned to Paddy’s Market to allow Oscar to pick up some kitschy Australian memorabilia, then we returned to the Rocks to partake in their weekend craft maret. There I found the stall of an artist vending some really cool prints showing caricatures of Australian animals. The characters were full of appeal, and of course, as it turns out, the guy who creates the pieces is an animator. They are currently hanging up prominently in my guest bathroom. If you have a chance, check out to see and possibly purchase some of Simon Williams’ charming artwork.

The Convicts, Soldiers and Settlers
Monument in The Rocks
I also bought an awesome pair of clockwork cufflinks from another local artist. These were my gift to myself on this trip and while they don’t directly shout “Australia” I was so charmed by the sales pitch and clear passion for detail the artist had, so I bought a pair. I’m getting a new suit made (my first tailored suit) for a wedding this Fall, and I hope to rock those cufflinks with it.

Our last meal in Sydney we decided to try a highly rated restaurant Oxford Social, on the edge of Darlinghurst, sort of near the red light district. While it was quite good, it was overpriced for the offerings, and their “perfect” martini used vodka instead of gin, which is a crime against humanity. I did have some very delicious Arancini, which are fried rice balls stuffed with, in this case, brie and tomatoe. I also had some acceptable fish croquettes. Afterward we walked back to Baron’s house, straight through a very gay friendly part of town - the Golden Mile, an area of Oxford street in Darlinghurst. This was purely by happenstance, but it was good to see a healhy LGBT community in the city.

We stopped off at a very popular gelato shop, rated number one in Sydney, in fact, called Gelato Messina. I invite you to check out their website at  because their flavor list is spectacular, but I had a gelato made with cardamom and raisins and it was wonderful. They are cash only and expect a line, but it was totally worth it.

Beautiful Sydney at Night
Finally, we returned to Baron’s place for a last look at the Sydney skyline by night. I promised them some night shots, so I desperately took hundreds of photos hoping that a few of them would come out. I think I managed to get a few decent shots, but it definitely highlighted a need for me to bring a tripod with me on trips like this. It’s nearly impossible to hold one’s camera still enough to get a good night shot. You need a long exposure, and anything longer than 1/30th of a second is too long to keep still and get a clean shot.

Leaving Justin behind, Oscar and I walked back to the hotel for the last time, tried to finish off the two 4-packs of cider and beer we had bought, and fell asleep. The next day we were homeward bound.

1 comment:

  1. Bravo, Ryan!
    A very entertaining and informative narrative of an amazing trip.
    So happy you were able to enjoy such experiences!