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Manly Beach – Sydney, Australia

Manly Beach – Sydney, Australia

I like Manly. Last time I came i thought it was a lovely place with a spectacular walk to the North Head of the Sydney Harour entrance.

So I wanted to visit again this time. I also wanted to explore Manly a bit more so I decided to walk up the North coast and the ocean side beaches.


Suburbs and Suburbs

I arrived by the iconic Manly ferry – about 30 minutes from Circular Quay. This is a fantastic way to see the Eastern Harbour.

On reaching Manly I was reminded that it is quite built up. From the quay I walked up the main street and reached the beach with is rolling waves.

I had come before 9am, albeit on a weekend, and yet the place was busy with people surfing, swimming, playing sport, jogging or simply walking their dogs.

I walked the length of the beach and then weaved through residential roads to reach beach after beach after beach. All similarly busy. Many beaches had activities for kids, particularly junior lifeguard training.

I was unable to find a coastal path and t became somewhat tiring walking along streets of houses, although it was a pleasant surprise on reaching another beach.


Dee Why – far enough

I made it to Dee Why beach and decided that was far enough, This was a busy place with some beach side cafes and shops and looked quite a nice community,

I was able to catch a bus back to Manly from here.


To the Spit.

I then decided to follow a waymarked path along the harbour side coast to The Spit at Mosman. This proved to be an enjoyable 10km walk although quite hard going in places.

There were great views of the harbour entrance

As well as local wildlife!


There was also a good view over Manly showing hoax narrow the place is, between the harbourside and ocean side.

Once I reached The Spit I crossed the bridge. This is low level and still needs to open to let yachts through.

I caught a bus back to the city and a rest.


Manly – Is it still a yes?

Yes. I still like it. I was impressed with the suburbs and so great beaches but Manly itself and the walk to North Head are great and preferred.


Sydney Olympic Park – Slightly Spooky

Sydney Olympic Park – Slightly Spooky

I had heard that the Olympic park originally built for the 2000 Sydney olympics was worth a visit as there was a lot going on. I am afraid I have to disagree although my judgement may be coloured by my mode of arrival.


Up river to the Olymics

I had the great idea of arriving by water. I jumped on the Paramatta bound ferry and had a lovely 45 minutes cruise deep into the western reaches of the harbour. I admired the waterside properties and marvelled at the number of Sydney houses that have a view of the water.

Sydney suburbs stretch out in all directions for miles and are a real mix of house designs and sizes.

After admiring the eclectic properties I arrived at the Sydney Olympic Park quay and got off the ferry looking forward to admiring the legacy of the olympics.


Where are the Stadia?

Not quite what I expected. Clearly during the games there were shuttle buses, Now I walked. It was a very long way and not really clearly marked.  It took an age to get there. I ended up crossing a “feature”. A water filled hole where, I think. They used to mine clay to make bricks.



Is there anyone there?

When I eventually arrived at the Olympic site the place seemed really deserted and ghostly.

I came across the Charles Moses Stadium and this was in a state of disrepair.

I am not sure what this was used for in the Olympic s but is now used for a log throwing event.

As I walked though the place the other stadia were clearly in use but the place is massive and felt so empty

I am not alone

As I reached the ANZ stadium and the railway station area there were other people around.  There does appear to be some offices and businesses in their area.

Had I arrived by train I think my impression would have been a little different.

The area is used for a number of events and clearly has enormous capacity for showpiece events but feels underused.

This seems the same  of many old Olympic venues, even those that made  a profit, which I believe Sydney did.


So it did initially feel spooky but clearly there is some life in the area still. Just don’t arrive by boat.

Back in Sydney, Australia

Back in Sydney, Australia

I am back in Sydney

Just over 10000 miles and 22 hours of flying I have arrived.

The process of immigration and quarantine check was quick. The bags took a little time to arrive and I noticed mine had had quite a ride. There was a small hole in the top of the case and the padlock and one of the zip pulls had been torn off. It had been kindly put inside the case. So one chore for the holiday is to buy a new suitcase.

Hotel arrival

I took a taxi to the Shangri-La hotel. I had booked a horizon club room so I was directed to the Horizon Club to check in. As it was still before 0900 no room was available. I had not expected anyhing so after a cup of tea I went to the spa to shower and change.

I then wandered down to Circular Quay. From my previous trip I had a Opal card – a prepay card for transport (similar to the UK Oyster or Hong Kong Octopus card. Why do they al begin with O?!) I found I still had Aus$ 5 credit so added a bit more.

Ferry to Darling Harbour

I hopped on a ferry to  Darling Harbour and had a nice view of the bridge and Opera House.


I got off at the second Darling harbour stop – Pyrmont. I didn’t stop at the Harbour but walked further to the Sydney Fish Market. Lots of others were doing the same.


Sydney Fish Market

I was not sure what to expect. It is a real wholesale market but there is an area that sells to the public and they had a fantastic selection of fish and crustaceans, Loads of varied sizes of prawns to huge lobsters.

So I had a mid morning snack of Sydney Rock Oysters freshly shucked and melted cheese and scallops. Very nice.


Early present buying

I remembered that near Chinatown I had found a good supermarket where I had bought some chocolates and other sweets for friends. I decided to do this early as I had some time. I was able to find the shopping centre and supermarket. On the way I noted a political statement in the sky acknowledging the newly inaugurated US president.


In the supermarket I came across some Chinese dragons and drummers starting the celebrations for Chinese New Year.


Quite an unusual and varied start to my holiday.


No upgrade.

I returned to the hotel to collect my key and go to my room. I had booked though American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts and was hoping for an upgrade as the terms state this will occur (if one is available) Sadly one was not available so I had the room Iboked overlooking the opera house.

This is the second time I have booked with Fine Hotels and Resorts and have yet to get the upgrade. Perhaps I book too good a room in the first place.


Opera House and Botanic Gardens

Once I had settled in I went for a walk to the opera House and Botanic gardens to get the good views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. the gardens are a really pleasant place to spend some time and seem well used by the locals.


Finally back to the hotel for a drink and an early night. The jet lagged finally caught up with me.


Hotel Booking Timing – More Insights

Hotel Booking Timing – More Insights

Since my last post on this I have been tracking a couple of hotels in Sydney. These are the Shangri La



and Sofitel Sydney Wentworth.



I realise this is a small sample. I have focused it even more by checking only on the American Express Travel site and the hotel’s own websites.

Even with this limited data it has been interesting, and confusing.

As expected there is no simple answer.

The prices vary almost  day by day and one hotel’s prices will go done whilst the other one’s increase. Room availability is also variable. I realise this is, to some, stating the absolutely obvious.

Of course there will be huge variation. The hotels use a very dynamic pricing model depending on the apparent bookings, and hence remaining availability they have. In parallel to this many people, companies and travel agents and websites will be holding, booking and cancelling rooms as peoples’ plans or minds change. As availability drives cost and this is changing minute to minute then the cost will change dynamically.

I also presume the hotels add special offers and in the internet world flash sales lasting a few hours or a day only will impact on the pricing levels.


What is happening now?

As I write this I see that the price for the Shangri  La hotel has increased whilst Sofitel has dropped quite a lot. This trend has continued for the last week or so. I also note that in both hotels the rooms available are becoming more restricted. Yes, of course this is obvious. As you get closer to arrival, plans are firmed up and more rooms and booked. in other words the hotel has less room availability to offer. Perhaps Shangri La is more full at the moment or Sofitel have simply decided to discount further their current available rooms.


So what am I going to do?

Well, I made my booking about 2 weeks ago. This seems to have been the right time for the hotel I chose and so I am sticking with it. However, as the hotel seems to be pretty full as evidenced by the small list of rooms types showing as available I bet I will not get the upgrade as part of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts service I used. This raises the question if it is worth paying more for the potential of these perks; but that is another post!


And my conclusion?

It is a mug’s game and a lottery.


You need to make a decision at some point that you are happy with the price and the type of room and simply go for it. Yes, it will change. Sometimes up and sometimes down. The type of room availability, especially the premium rooms, will become less available or much more costly.

So my game plan is to book as soon as I confirm my holiday but on terms that can be cancelled and track intermittently for a while. I will not wait until too close to my arrival to make a final decision. At that point stop tracking.

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017.

Another year ahead.  A year older and a year closer to retirement but I am not there yet. So I will still need to fit my holidays into the few weeks leave I get per year.

So how will I make the best use of the time? Do I go long haul for a couple of weeks or shorter haul for a week?


I have already decided on one trip in January. Long haul for a short time!


Yes, I have been before and had such an enjoyable time I am going again.

Thankfully my holidays start at the airport so I consider even such a long haul fun. I hope I will still feel this when I arrive.

I am flying Thai Airways; London to Bangkok and then with about a 2 hour break in the airport I take the connecting flight to Sydney so I lose 2 days on the outward journey.


I’m not sure where I am going to stay. I’ve booked a cancelled one hotel as I was able to get a better price for the same place a few weeks later. I am looking at other hotels and I am not sure whether it is best to book directly with the hotel or through my American Express Travel Service. I can get better deals if I book a non-refundable tariff but I do not want to do that and commit.

I think I will do this closer to the time unless prices have skyrocketed.

What to do

The last time I visited I used the ferries and visited all around the harbour

I am keen to go back to some places like Manly and explore a bit more. It has also been suggested that I should visit the Blue Mountains. I came across a newspaper article recently recommending them as well but I am not sure whether I should make a day trip or stay overnight. This might affect whether I book a full week’s accommodation in Sydney or not.

So much planning, but so little time!!

2017 here I come.

My Final Holiday of 2016 – Thailand – Again!

My Final Holiday of 2016 – Thailand – Again!

I went back to Thailand in November. Yes, Thailand again. But this time a different place. I went to Koh Lanta in Krabi.

I was planning a beach holiday. Something I have not done for a long time. I felt I needed simply to sit and unwind. It did not work out quite that way. I think, mainly because I do not unwind by sitting in the sun going as red as a lobster. Instead I feel more relaxed people watching and exploring.

So I ended up touring the island, and travelling to neighbouring ones – Phi Phi and Phuket.

I snorkelled and even hired a motorbike to tour the island. I was pleased that I did. Last time I had used a motorcycle, in Chiang Mai, I had fallen off and hurt myself. This time no injuries, and had a great tour of the island. Thankfully the roads are not that busy so I could travel at my own pace and not have to contend with traffic.

I even chose to stay in a small guest house (Harmony House) rather that the luxury hotels I generally seek out. It was fantastic and very reasonably priced. It was right in the centre of town and overlooked the water. I was close to the ferry dock so was a little noisy in the morning and afternoon when the ferried departed or arrived but this was not a problem. It was fun to sit and watch the comings and goings.


I could stroll to many local restaurants for food and drink. My only complaint is the bed was a little firm for my taste but that would not stop me returning.

In Conclusion

My “beach” holiday became an exploration and gentle activity holiday. Just right and relaxing. Sadly all too soon forgotten on returning to the stresses of workaday life.

But I will be back and am also planning my 2017 holidays.


Repeat visits

Repeat visits

I tend to travel alone and to organise my own flight and accommodation. I have, in the past, gone on some fantastic holidays that were organised by a company. I have been to Everest this way for example and had a great time.

Sunrise over Everest
Sunrise over Everest

For some reason , over the last few years I have become an independant traveler. The issue that arises for me now is where to go. I traveled to Thailand, and then went again and again and again…..

OK, I went to different places, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, but in each case I find myself returning.

Wat Phra Singh Vihara Laai Kham

Sometimes it is because there is more to see but sometimes it feels that I am doing it for safety. It is a place I know and so I know how to get around, and what to do.

I have had excellent times and met some interesting people. But as I plan another holiday I find myself considering Thailand again. Do I go to Chiang Rai,


Krabi or do I just go back to Bangkok

Why do I keep going back? Well I love the atmosphere and the people so sitting and people watching is always fun. Exploring another Chiang Mai temple is interesting and enlightening but I am not sure.

So I sit here pondering my next holiday. I have some Thai Airways  points to use so I will pass through Thailand but do I go further? More thought needed.