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Things Undone in Australia

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Aside from the shady neighborhoods like King's Cross in which we stayed, Sydney is the sort of city my mother, a partisan of Singapore and Dubai, would like: clean and pretty.

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With the help of a pay-what-you-will tour, we saw a reasonable amount of it; we walked the Harbor and CBD, and I took the subway out to the suburb of Davidson in order to make a delivery from the original Galapagos post office. No doubt that a guidebook could find many more "must-do" holes than these, but the following are a few idiosyncratic regrets I have about our stay.

(1) As Tony mentioned, Australia was one of the most expensive places we'll visit on this trip. This is partly because its currency, buoyed by resource exports to China, has reached parity with the U.S. dollar. With this in mind, I didn't even window-shop for souvenirs. However, there was one only-in-Australia purchase that repeated TV advertising convinced me I ought to make, but that I failed to accomplish before we left: shares in the privatization of QR National, a Queensland-owned rail company in the business of getting coal out of the interior of the continent and to ports for shipment to Asia. They are very explicitly not being sold in the U.S., so I thought they would make a nice representative souvenir of our trip. Unfortunately, with the going back and forth to New Zealand and then Cairns, I never quite got it together to investigate exactly how to get in on the IPO.

(2) I enjoyed the Sydney Wildlife World, an animal exhibition in the city center where Tony took this and many other lovely pictures. I had a coupon that, along with paying for a full-price entry ticket, allowed me to pet a koala (stroking the back of my fingers against its woolly fur) and have a picture with it.

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However, the larger animals, especially the kangaroos, had that slightly unhealthy look and litterbox odor typical of critters that in their natural environment would have a great deal more space in which to run and excrete. Some people we met in Cairns highly recommended the Lone Pine sanctuary near Brisbane, where you can not just pet but actually cuddle a koala -- like the Pope! -- and hand-feed kangaroos that have five acres to roam. We didn't have the time to go to Brisbane, however, as it's a two-day drive from Cairns to Sydney, and we had to catch the flight to Jakarta two days after our diving excursion.

(3) Sydney has developed a reputation as a restaurant city: Quay, Tetsuya's and others have been ranked alongside the big names of New York, London and Paris. While the tippytop type of establishment was out of my budget, I figured that one of these prix fixe lunches ought to be manageable. Alas, I discovered these deals on that flight from Cairns to Sydney that was a day before the one going on to Indonesia. Etch, the only one in convenient distance of our hotel, started lunch too late for me to feel safe about getting to the airport on time.

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No "raviolo of pumpkin and spinach with pork belly salad" here,
just the mascot of the old Sydney hospital.

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