Harbourside Apartment

This time I chose to rent a one bedroom at the Harbourside Apartment, which is right next to the McMahons Point‎ Ferry Wharf. There are ferries connecting the wharf to Circular Quay, Darling Habour, and Pyrmont every 30 minutes or so (timetable), making it quite convenient.

Commuting by ferry turns out to be feasible but not cheap -- the best choice would be MyMulti 1, which costs $43 a week and allows for unlimited ferry, bus, tram, and short-distance train.

There's limited bus to this area but the North Sydney train station is just 1km away -- though it's uphills to the station so it may take a good 20 minutes of walk. After reaching the station you can easily reach Chatswood and various parts of the Sydney city by transferring at the usual hubs.

Apartment facilities are okay with good swimming pool, laundry, vending machines, and friendly reception that's open 7am-11pm.

The one bedroom apartment has an open lounge + dining + kitchen, which makes it feel quite spacious. The amenities are not great but reasonable, with all the required appliances (LCD TV, DVD player, hifi, refrigerator, stove, oven, dishwasher, kettle, toaster, hair dryer, iron, heater, etc) and kitchenware.

The dual layer curtains are very practical, but as with most apartments the noise from plumbing or neighbours are quite expected. (Note some high-end buildings in Taiwan actually do an excellent job in noise prevention.)

One of the best features of the apartment is the view of the harbour, notably the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Here is a 300x time-lapsed video that shows the view from the kitchen window -- the video is under 3 minutes but captures 15 hours from sunrise to sunset.

 The area at McMahons Point is very quiet with few shops around. It's nice there's greens here where you can lay back, enjoy the great view/sun, and read a good book.

Although I've enjoyed the stay here, the price tag for short stays, at close to $2,000 a week, is too high.


Trip to Blue Mountains (Katoomba, Leura)

Went to the popular tourist destination Katoomba and Leura in Blue Mountains this Saturday. Katoomba is very accessible, with return rail tickets from Central costing only $11.40. Simply search for the Blue Mountains line to Lithgow when you are at Central station. Note trains depart hourly (search for timetable on 131500) and the ride takes 2 hours (driving seems to be 30min faster), so you probably want to bring a good book to read on the way (or do your favorite group activities such as play guitar and sing, card/board games etc.).
Although Katoomba and the nearby Leura are both relatively small towns, it can still take tens of minutes to walk between the various attractions. You can choose to hop on the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus (more frequent but more expensive) or the Trolley Shuttle (cheaper, less frequent, last bus runs later) to get to various attractions faster, and save your time for good hikes along the cliff or the valley.

 Scenic World is a major attraction in Katoomba, claiming to have the steepest railway in the world (Scenic Railway), the highest cable car in Australia (Scenic Skyway), the biggest cable car in Australia (Scenic Cableway), and the longest boardwalk in the Southern Hemisphere (Scenic Walkway). Scenic World takes a good 30 minute walk from the Katoomba station, so you'd want to take the Explorer Bus and get off either at "Skyway Eastern Anchorage" (the east point of Scenic Skyway) or Scenic World.

The Scenic Railway apparently holds the Guinness Book of Records for the world's steepest railway. The official certificate says it's 310m long with a gradient of 1 in 0.82, while the sign post in the valley claims it's 415m long with a 206m vertical drop, a 80m long natural tunnel, and with a steepest incline of 52 degrees. Anyway, it's definitely a worthwhile ride, especially if you can get in the front seat like I did!
At the valley there's a coal mine exhibition explaining the mining history of Katoomba and there's elevated boardwalk through the forest. The boardwalk is partially carpeted that allows casual walking in most weather conditions.
I chose to take the Cableway to go back up. It's a huge cable car that claims to be able to hold 84 people. And I also took the Skyway that has a good view of the Kaboomta Falls, and has a part of its floor transparent to see the 270m drop.

Echo Point is a great place to see the Three Sisters and blue mountains at a distance. Below are some of the pictures my colleagues and I took. You can visit my album at Google+, which offers a great photo viewing experience.

There are several nice hiking trails in the vicinity. I took the cliff walk that has several great outlooks. Although the weather is good at the time, some parts of the walk are muddy from the continuous raining previously. On the bright side, waterfalls are likely to be more spectacular. Below are shots of the Leura Falls that is highly recommended by the bus driver (we were originally planning to check out Gordon Falls but the driver persuaded us otherwise). 

A colleague has suggested us to go to Leura for great restaurants after visiting Three Sisters and Scenic Railway, so we pulled out Google Maps and found Silk's Brasserie which had a 5-star rating. Below are photos of the Pan-seared scallops with avocado, salmon, tatsoi salad, light wasabi dressing and the Roast Moroccan lamb loin with couscous, pine-nuts, date, tomato relish + spicy harissa dishes that I ordered. They are indeed very good!