The Champagne Backpacker: Michael's Round the World Trip 2005-2007-- The Adventure of a Lifetime travel blog

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Dinner At Uncle Ray's (l-r: Frank, Natasha, Me, Marisa, Loretta, Aunty Ivy,...

Bed Bug Bites

Little Sophie (2) And Proud Dad Brendon

Brendon, Ryan, Sophie, Caroline, Me

My Father At Cockles Bay And Darling Harbour, Sydney

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2006. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. I have arrived in Sydney and checked into Wake Up! Sydney Hostel in the Central Business District (CBD) (4-bed dorm A$34/$22). They claim to be rated the number one large hostel in Oceania for 2005.

In the afternoon, I wandered down to Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House to watch the sun set over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a beautiful spring day--the weather is similar to spring in San Francisco. My uncle Ray picked me up and I joined him and his family (Aunty Ivy; cousins Natasha, Marisa, and Loretta; and Natasha's fiance Frank) for dinner at their new home. It was the first home cooked meal I have had in eight months and certainly the best. I think I may be putting on some weight in the next couple of weeks as I attend other family meals, including cousin Astrid and Natasha's respective weddings.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2006. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. I woke up in the middle of the night scratching all over. I went to the bathroom and saw about 20 bites on various parts of my body. It was clear from the circular bite patterns that they were bed bug bites. I spoke with the staff and management of Wake Up! Sydney Hostel about my bites, but they were unsympathetic and dismissive of my claim of bed bug bites. So I decided to move to another hostel just down the street: Sydney Central YHA. After moving, I went on the Internet and wrote some critical reviews about my experience at Wake Up! Sydney Hostel on several hostel review sites (Hostelz, Tripadvisor).

For lunch, I walked a few blocks north to Chinatown and met my Uncle Mun Kit, Aunty Judy, and cousin Astrid for dim sum. Cousin Astrid gets married to her fiance, Jason, this Saturday. In the evening, my cousin Caroline picked me up drove me to her home for dinner with husband Brendon, son Ryan, and daughter Sophie. They invited me to spend the night, so Brendon and I went back into town to retrive my luggage from the hostel.

Tomorrow I think I might head to Star City Casino and try my luck at the craps table. Later in the day, my parents, sister, and sister's boyfriend arrive from Honolulu, Hawaii.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2006. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. This morning the Australian flag atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge was flying at half staff in honor of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. The public memorial service for the Crocodile Hunter was held at his zoo, the Australian Zoo in Brisbane, and broadcast live throughout Australia and many parts of the world. Perhaps the most moving moment of the ceremony was Irwin's eight year old daughter, Bindi's, tribute to her father. Mate, Australia and the world will miss ya. CRIKEY!

On a separate note, the Thai military staged a coup while its embattled prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was in New York to give a speech to the UN. Back in June, while I was in Bangkok, I saw Thaksin, his wife and daughter at the Siam Paragon Center, Bangkok's premiere shopping destination. It remains to be seen what will happen in Thailand. Nevertheless, coups are antithetical to democracy. At the very least, the political instability will translate into economic instability in the near term for Thailand and its Southeast Asian neighbors.

I spent the day hanging out at cousin Caroline and Brendon's home in Chatswood, and their two great kids, Ryan (9) and Sophie (2). I last saw Brendon two years ago in Manila, the Philippines.

In the evening, Brendon drove me to Sydney's Central Business District (CBD), where I checked into a three bedroom serviced apartment reserved by my parents. The apartment is located on the 49th floor, with commanding views of the city, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge. After my family arrived from Honolulu, we walked to Chinatown for dinner hosted by my Uncle Mun Kit, Aunty Judy, and family.

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