An Indian Abroad?

If you’re an Indian – You know you are abroad when

  1. You are confronted with toilet paper and find to your dismay there is no mug available in any supermarket
  2. You spend a heck of a lotta time figuring out how to open the sauce bottle when actually it’s the simplest technique
  3. You start using a cheese board as a rolling board
  4. You begin deep freezing and refrigerating like crazy
  5. You wear your sweater and jacket on a chilly day while the locals are roaming about in shorts and sleeveless tops
  6. You have to ask the local to repeat himself as you can’t understand the accent
  7. Worse still, you have a perfectly neutral accent but are asked to repeat yourself
  8. You struggle figuring out the change while at a billing counter and slowly pick out the 10 c , 50 c & 20 c coins – (currency )
  9. You are willing to pay 17 Rs for a single tomato and 30 Rs for a laddoo
  10. You store the empty butter plastic containers and recycle them
  11. You have to hold yourself back from crossing a street when you have a red light despite the road being sinfully empty
  12. You make every single payment online
  13. You pay 100$(Rs 3000) to a locksmith, plumber or handyman
  14. You have milk out of a tetra pack
  15. You drink water straight out of the tap
  16. You have to start reading maps to find your way round
  17. You find that public transport comes with an air con , tv and best of all seats where you can actually find a place to sit
  18. You do your laundry , vacuuming and other household chores on a weekly basis
  19. Yours are the biggest suitcases at the airport and nine times out of ten you will have a cardboard box as well
  20. You will spend Rs 300 on a 20 minute phone card
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Sydney Food Fare-The belly rules the mind

 

Being an Indian vegetarian the first thing I do when I visit another country is to try and locate an Indian restaurant or stall – just anything Indian or if not Indian, at least vegetarian. Sydney was no different. To my surprise, despite the percentage of Indians being less when compared to Indian populated Singapore, Malaysia, London etc, Indian food was quite accessible. You would find Indian restaurants aplenty in the city and you were certain to find one in almost every suburb. I was overwhelmed to find “veggie” food in every restaurant n food court unlike Jakarta or Singapore where you had to literally hunt to no end for vegetarian fare n then not finding any you would eventually have to request them to make you some rice with “no fish-no meat-no chicken”

You will find a wide array of cuisines in Sydney. The multi culturalism has contributed to specialty cuisines, the most popular being Italian, Lebanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese. You will find every possible fare-Japanese, Indian, Singaporean-I reckon there isn’t a single speciality cuisine that you can’t find in this wonderful city.Pasta is found in almost all food courts and so are kebabs (the Indian version are the frankies)…the kebabs are lip smacking {wrap which has rolled in it hummus(a Lebanese sauce), taboulli (parsley & tomato), tomato slices, onion rings, barbeque sauce, cheese, falafel (red lentil patties) & fries on request}.its juicy yet dry and just scrumptious to say the least. Thanks to its addictive don’t be surprised to find yourself parked at the kebab shop every week!

The range of eateries span the food courts, burger shops, kebab shops, specialty restaurants, Thai take aways, numerous cafes, the gourmet restaurants at the wharfs and of course the luxury ones.

Cafes are a hallmark of Sydney and can be spotted almost around every street corner. Café fares are quite interesting the food being absolutely fresh not to mention healthy. Fresh sandwiches with a variety of breads and fillings to choose from, along with rich wholesome crunchy salads, pasta, milk shakes in flavors of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, juices, smoothies, chai (tea is called chai) and coffees are the most common items on the menu. Most cafes have street seating and you can enjoy the sun on your face and the warmth of its rays or you can cup your palms around warm coffee on a chilly autumn day…the ambience is relaxed and friendly

Some uniquely Australian fare are chai latte(a spiced tea mixed with milk that’s steamed from an espresso machine), banana bread/muffins, banana smoothie, raisin bread, hot cross buns, berry chocolate pastries, strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue to name a few.

Orange juice tops the charts and is consumed like water. Wine is another major competetor. Infact orange juice is cheaper than bottled water and wine costing just as much as water serves as an excelent substitute!!!Breads, jams, spreads are the freshest. Raspberry is another local favorite and so is ice cream…tiramisu…rasberry…peppermint are some of the unusual flavors and one scoop of ice-cream for 3$ is equivalent to 4 scoops in India…how good is that ?

Never have I had to think that too many choices can be not so liberating…..shelves and shelves of sauces, tinned/canned food, and who would have thought that cheese can pose such a variety, from ricotta to parmesan to cottage to mozzarela to fetta to goats cheese to French cheese…triangles…shredded…blocks…slices…(oh I’m tired)

And if its cheese you’re after then wine cannot be far behind…The Shiraz is a popular variety as is the Merlot… A visit to the vineyards @ Hunter Valley is a must and the wine tasting, cheese tasting and chocolate tours will whet your appetite for more…

After all in a land where farming is the backbone of the economy what else can you expect…fruits, fresh vegetables, dairy products and confectionery …it’s a package deal …no wonder there is a channel dedicated just to food and all this is nothing but good news to us Indians who like the Aussies simply live to eat!

Bondi Beauty

One of the spots to head to in Sydney during summer is the beach….plenty of which exist in Sydney so much so you may not be able to visit all….the most popular are those of Manly and Bondi….nearly every household in Sydney will boast of a surfboard…and if you don’t own one no worries mate…you can just rent a board for 20$ and its all yours for the day….the Sydney beach experience is unlike that of East Coast Park In Singapore or the Chennai marina/Elliot’s….here you will find as you stroll on the soft warm sand that slips through your toes, the beach dotted with sunbathers, sprawled on their tums or bums basking in the rays of the sun hoping to catch the bronzed tan that they can show off later on….look towards the water and you will find surfers on surfboards of various sizes and colors trying to master the waves…its truly exhilarating….perseverance is what you will see in the surfing experience….if surfboarding is not your cup of tea then you can probably look with admiration at the kids and teenagers whiz past you on their skateboards and novices trying to catch speed and learn fancy tricks…. 

And if these activities are too fancy for your liking not to worry…just do our own thing…settle comfortably on the sand….build sand castles or wiggle your toes in the gentle waves that lap the shore or stroll along the shores and feel the breeze on your skin….n for all those of you who would like to catch a glimpse of the blond bikini clad aussie gals you can hit Bondi…. 

You can spend hours and hours on the beach and still not be tired by the experience…even if you are not the beachy type you simply cannot resist the Sydney beaches….lil kids in my opinion have a blast and are the ones who enjoy the most….strangely I’ve noticed that there is one beach activity that tops the list for kiddies…and that’s a small lil boy or girl (dressed in a small panty peeping from beneath a teeny weeny itsy bitsy frock or jus knickers if it’s a boy ) just hovering around three years of age, vigorously scooping a handful of sand, then picking up that weight and waddling towards the waves and then flinging it into the water and jumping with glee after that and then…..only to repeat it after having run (a lil unsteadily)a few steps…And if its not flinging mud cakes then its sand building….castles …ponds…just anything you may fancy….

As the day wears on and the sun decides to bid farewell you can walk onto the rock formations by the side of the beach and see some fishing enthusiasts casting their line far into the ocean hoping to make a good catch….its interesting to watch how they hook their bait and then just fling the fishing line into the ocean and then when they sense a catch quickly try and bring it up but alas-on every occasion the catch got away…one or two were lucky and caught a calamari – a popular variety of fish. This is usually sold to the restaurants across the beach for 10 AUD and an hour later you can walk in and eat that very same calamari and place a 30$ bill in the lil black leather case on your way out… 

The beach front cafes and restaurants offer a variety of food fare …fish and chips is a must….so are the chocolate gateaux and hazelnut ice-cream….if you fancy Thai or burgers or Indian snacks or even Italian ravioli not to worry…and if you don’t mind tickling your taste buds then you can sample some pancakes with maple syrup drizzled over it… 

Whatever you choose to eat…whatever you choose to do at the beach you can rest assured that the memory will last a lifetime… 

“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach” –Henry Beston


No blues @ Blue Mountains

If you are in Sydney then you will definitely hear about Blue Mountains. Its the first place one would suggest a visit to. A mere two hour journey from the city will take you to a breathtaking valley, a verdant rainforest, splendid look out points, stunning waterfalls and of course the ravishing three sisters.

Getting to Blue Mountains is quite simple. You could either hire a car and drive yourself out there or hop onto a guided bus tour or simply catch the train which meanders through the city of Sydney and takes you to the quaint Katoomba station where you can hop off and then make you way around with the help of the Blue Mountains Explorer (a red bus which circles around the blue mountains area).An intriguing observation is that this paradise exists just outside the city, is easily accessible – you can even make a day trip and what’s more is that its easy on your pocket.

A sky ride will take you 270 m above the rainforest where you can catch a glimpse of the mystifying Katoomba falls and the vast vast vast (I feel a need to write the term vast n number of times to translate the magnitude of the vastness)expanse of the Jamison Valley. Once you reach the valley top the scenic railway which is the steepest incline railway in the world will take you down the lush green unaged valley from where you can begin the scenic walk through the lush green rainforest. As you walk through this leafy expanse you will discover interesting facts about the foliage – many of which are centuries old, one majestic tree even had a hollow running up through its bark due to a bush fire decades back.

Once the scenic world expedition is over you can explore the rest of the place by bushwalking. Bushwalking is a popular activity Down Under and several scenic walks can be undertaken both within the city as well as outside. Bushwalking literally means walking through the bush. Some of the walks were simple while others were heart – in – the mouth walks (esp. the honeymoon lookout) as you tread on a narrow pathway along the edge of a steep cliff with the rainforests below. However the lookout point view makes it all worthwhile, silencing you with its beauty and grandeur.

The highlight of the place however would be “The Three Sisters” – three beautiful rocks or should I say sisters, who stand with all their glory and splendor overlooking the vast Jamison Valley and the rainforests with the Blue Mountains in the background.

The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and Gunnedoo’ lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe.These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry.The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.

Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments–NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

 

Feel like the Queen in the Queen

If you are the clicking stiletto, Louis Vuitton clad oh so chic chick then QVB or the Queen Victoria Building is your shopping paradise…

The QVB stands in regal glory at the centre of Sydney’s CBD, on George Street, with its 19th century architecture. Balustrades, arched domes, stained glass windows and tiled floors g iv e it an old world charm and are true to its Victorian legacy. It houses some of the grandest names in fashion and is frequented by the rich and famous.

Salvatore Ferragamo, Martin & Stein Antiques, Swarovski, LG Humphries & Sons, Witchery, Les Ind iennes de Provence, Via Condotti, Darrell Lea Chocolates, Rodd & Gunn are some of the names you will find in there.

So all you slick city malls move over! Coz the Queen of them all is here…

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” – Bo Derek

Park Yourself

A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz – Humphrey Bogart

I landed in Sydney smack in the middle of summer and what a summer it was!….Sydneysiders (that’s how the locals are referred to) simply enjoy the seasons here…I could literally feel them enjoying the beautiful season…it was that time of the year to wear your tees, spaghettis, shorts, hats, caps, shades and the truly Australian thongs (the flat “chappal”/”slippers”) , slap plenty of sun block (this is a handbag essential and an everyday must as the sun can burn your skin here and apparently Australia is reported to have the highest instances of skin cancer due to the predatory sun) and spill onto the streets, beaches, parks and well almost everywhere….you can literally see people enjoying the season and the bug soon bites you as well….I only remember summers as a time to say “oh Chennai (the city I lived in in India) is getting hotter year after year…its hotter this year than last year “ or as the season of mangoes (wait with trepid anticipation to bite into those juicy mangoes) or as a time to jus stay indoors n avoid the heat as far as possible….or when in Singapore do the same….but in Sydney ?…naaah…..we do it different in Sydney folks!…its summertime n here we come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Australia is truly blessed by nature and there are plenty of parks in Sydney…so many that you will get tired of keeping track ….n I must add that they are ALL natural…the parks are by no means small n since I live close to Hyde Park I have had the opportunity to walk through the park on many an occasion….vast absolutely lush green lawns with plenty of fig trees forming an avenue, benches and a small lil coffee shop as well….unlike Singapore where all the green is untouched and unspoiled, Sydneysiders sprawl out on their colorful towels n enjoy a read or sit on the bench munching a slice of raisin bread or engage themselves in an afternoon game of chess under the shade of the leafy green trees or simply just sit and chit chat in the company of seagulls and pigeons (I must tell you that the seagulls frequent every building and space in Sydney and do not confine themselves to the shores of the water bodies)or cool off near the water fountain, lil kids splashing about n redefining the concept of fun to us 20 somethings who seem to have forgotten the simple joys in life…

Come noon time and the park transforms itself into a food court of sorts with the oh so formal business men all suited and booted making their way in the park, perhaps meeting their wives and kids over lunch….lunch usually comprises of a sandwich or a kebab roll and what better way to enjoy these treats by sitting in the shade of the trees surrounded by the verdant lawns and in the company of innocent seagulls….if you have a few minutes to spare nothing like watching the chess game in progress…

I must add that I discovered what a park meant only when I saw these sights in Sydney….it almost beckons you to enjoy yourself smack in the middle of the city right in the middle of the day …a haven to retreat to and leave the corporate jungle behind just for a an hour or so….and the icing on the cake – its all for free!

 

 

A Heavenly Experience


There isn’t a single person I know who doesn’t like long drives and when the drive is along the coastline of Sydney, with wind blowing through your hair then its something else altogether. So if it’s a bright sunny day and the skies are clear and if you are in a mood for a lovely long drive and don’t mind combining some temple hopping as well then just fill up your gas and speed on towards the famous Nan Tien temple-the biggest Chinese Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. En route you can step off at a famous Hindu temple, and then continue through the Royal National Park (The second largest National Park in the world) and be taken in by the picture perfect views. I am not even going to attempt to describe this experience coz words simply fail to do justice to this piece of heaven on earth.

Royal Welcome for the Queens

If there is one thing Sydneysiders love then it would be fireworks, cheering, parades and participation. (Okay so I didn’t mean one thing, I meant many things!) And they wouldn’t have it any different on the historical day when The Queen Mary II and Queen Elizabeth II met at the fantabulous Sydney Harbor for the first time after World War II.

I’m sure there must have been many an alarm that went off in the wee hours of the morning, so that the Sydneysiders could make it to the harbor to welcome the Queen Mary. All day long the city was buzzing, people thronging the wharfs just to catch a glimpse of the beauty.

 Come 6pm and all havoc broke loose in the city with traffic jams, as people buzzed towards the wharfs like bees to wax, to witness the historic meeting. The ones stuck behind the wheel for hours that seemed like infinity were cussing “it’s just a ship people!” “get a life!” But oh no, this wasn’t going to daunt anyone’s spirit – certainly not that of the man who climbed up a pole to take pictures, pregnant women pushing prams in the crowd, the oldie goldies hobbling in… 

Everyone was making every effort to inch their way to the best seat on the lawns of Royal Botanical Gardens to catch the best views of the beauties as well as the fireworks. Visiting the city, I certainly didn’t want to lose out on the action and rushed towards catching my own lil seat on the lawns. I found my thoughts slowly aligning towards the cussing passengers but I soon changed my train of thought when I got a glimpse of the majestic Queen Elizabeth proudly sailing into the harbor. It was an “aha moment” (you know, similar to the ‘aha moment’ when the Google way of life was discovered) Sydneysiders didn’t miss any opportunity in giving a warm grand welcome, cheering, clapping, waving. The flashing cameras were no less than the flashes at any award ceremony with the onlookers gasping at the sheer grandeur and glory these ships carried with them. Choppers hovered around the ships as they grandly sailed in serving the purpose of ushers.

A majestic fireworks display was the icing on the cake, lighting the Sydney skyline and leaving everyone including the majestic ships absolutely spell bound.

 

A Gay Evening

Coming from Chennai(a South Indian city) Mardi Gras to me meant the IIT(Indian Institute of Technology) cultural fest, now rechristened Saarang and having attended French lessons, it conjured images of my workbook telling me that Mardi Gras was some sort of pancake carnival in France. 

However, Mardi Gras took on a totally different definition in Sydney. Around the end of February and beginning of March the Mardi Gras fever had spread all over the city and every magazine was writing about the popular Mardi Gras parade, a parade symbolic of the gay and lesbian community. I am told that Sydney boasts of the largest percentage of gays and lesbians in Australia and they are welcomed with open arms. The parade is a celebration of sorts of this spirit… of this freedom of choice… Needless to say my curiosity was piqued and this was one event that was on top of my must see and do list while I was visiting Sydney.

The parade was scheduled to begin at 7:45pm and I was puzzled to see people milling towards Hyde Park (starting point of the parade) at 5:30pm itself. When I reached Hyde Park at 7:30pm I realized why! When I reached the spot, to my amazement the entire walkway was lined by Sydneysiders cheering, hooting, showering confetti and flying balloons. People were shouting out from apartment and hotel balconies and everyone was gay (pun intended). Drag queens strutted about and I must say I had to hold myself from staring. Since I could see nothing but bobbing heads of the million people ahead of me (now I know why people were eager to be there before 7:30pm) I turned towards the screen put up for people like me, so that we don’t miss the action.  

The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, a strong supporter of the event was also there to participate in the festivities. It began with bikers, lesbian and gay couples on numerous Harley Davidsons of all ages and shapes – some even topless, waving out and cheering at the crowd gathered. The parade consisted of various floats and each group/float had specific theme, Asian, military, funny, environmental friendly groups. You name it and they were there, all being cheered on by the onlookers. 

After an hour or so I started making my way out of there. I was yet again taken aback by what I saw. Teenagers dressed in the shortest, tightest of clothes, fluorescent jewellery at strategic places, some talking loudly, some others screaming, still others boozing, beer bottles strewn about and young couples making out. All of a sudden my conservative Asian background popped up, with my raised eyebrows at these sights and sounds. But Mardi Gras was a nice experience. No great shakes considering all the hoo haa and hoopla but it was a different experience and I guess I now have one more experience to relate to Mardi Gras other than a pancake carnival and the IIT cultural fest!

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