From Japan my plane ride was about 15 hours. I flew from Osaka to Shanghai, China to Sydney and then to Adelaide. Adelaide is a mid-sized city known for it’s laid back atmospere and many beaches and it’s south west of Melbourne. I stopped here first to visit my friend Katy and her family for Christmas and I also spent the most time here. When I arrived Katy’s sister greeted me at the airport and from the car ride back I noticed that the houses were very southern-California like. Later that night Katy and her mom took me to town for some last minute Christmas shopping. I noticed that fresh juice making stands were really popular. The next day was Christmas Eve and we went to Katy’s father’s house. Their neighbors had pet kangaroos and to our surprise let us in to pet them. One of them got a little excited and tried to play boxing with Lucy, Katy’s sister. Luckily Lucy has some mad fighting skills and fought that kangaroo off valiently. Christmas dinner was really interesting because it was all very traditional English food that I hadn’t had for quite a while. Christmas day came and I was surprised by how many presents I recieved, being a guest and all. I met Katy’s extensive family, which was a lot since her mom was one of twelve. The following day was boxing day, and observed holiday in Australia. So we didn’t do much this day, just went to an outlet mall a bit. We went to a nature reserve the next day called Clemont Reserve. There I got to pet kangaroos, wallabies, emus and even hold a koala (for a price). The day got even better when we went to this little German town with handmade products, soaps, jewelry and the like. The evening was topped off with a movie in the park where we watched Rocky Horror Picture show and a lot of people dressed up. It was nice to know people down under had good taste, haha. Katy, her friends and I went to the beach a couple more times before I left but those were the highlights of that trip.
I stayed in a hostel in Melbourne and some people I met while traveling showed me around a little bit. For those who live in Chicago, Melbourne reminded me of a big wicker park. I went to this old church that basically was a free restaurant giving out healthy vegetarian food and basically lived off of donations. The food wasn’t bad but the experience was pretty cool. I was in Melbourne for new years and the hostel had a party at their bar in the basement. I even got a free drink on the hostel. During the countdown everyone went to the rooftop to see the fireworks go off. Apparently Melbourne got overexcited with their fireworks and something caught on fire, but I didn’t see it.
On New Years day I went to Cairns, which is up north past Bristbane. This is where I planned to swim in the Great Barrier Reef, and swim I did. I was actually really lucky to find a good tour for my money on such late notice, and on such a popular day but it all worked out. I decided to rent a digital SLR underwater camera to take some amazing underwater photos. Well out of the 400 pictures I took I think only were pretty good, but it was worth it. I didn’t see many different fish that I had not already scene in Hawaii except for the infamous nemo fish (clown fish) and an array of corals I definately had never scene before. People who were diving on the trip saw some turtles and small sharks. The climate in Cairns was much different than the other parts of Australia I was in. Adelaide and Melbourne were very dry but Cairns reminded me of southern florida and had some areas that reminded me of the Everglades. They even had saltwater crocodiles. Cairns was very much a tourist town and it was clear many Asians came here. Some of the signs were in Japanese too. Apparently many Aboriginals also live in Cairns and I might have seen groups of them but I really couldn’t tell. From afar they look like Africans. Since Cairns was more tropical I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find bats one night, but at first I didn’t even realize they were bats since there were so many of them, making a lot of noise like bird. Then I looked up to see what was making the racket and what I thought were crows were actually bats. It was pretty cool.
My final stop was Sydney, just for a day. I stayed at a hostel that was by Bondi Beach, which is famous for some reason. It looked like a normal beach to me but rather large. Later that evening I decided to make a trip to see the Opera House at night. Standing on the bay and seeing the city lit up and the Opera House was really amazing. I felt like I was IN Australia.
My travels to Australia took me through China and on the way back I had a night in Shanghai. I had probably the most typical experience you could imagine. I actually booked a hostel before entering the plane while still in Sydney. When I got to Shanghai I asked several people that were by “Airport Shuttle” signs to direct me to the shuttle I needed. Well they were actually people who worked for the hotel their airport shuttle went to and got commission for whoever they get to stay at said hotel. After talking to a few people I realized I was not going to find the shuttle I needed and gave into getting a new hotel close to the airport. I figured if I could stay in a nice place for around the same price it could be worth it. Well the photos in the broshure the guy showed me were wayyy different than what I got when I arrived at the hotel. It wasn’t a bad hotel persay, just obviously old and not the 5 star hotel they showed me. Also the shuttle drive over was pretty amusing, apparently red lights are suggestions and not the law, like at all. Many a time we’d slow down and stop briefly at a red light and when it was clear we’d just go. The next day I went to the airport, asked for a glass of water at a restaurant and got hot water. At this point things stopped being amusing and were just annoying but anyway at least I know for next time if I decide to visit China again.