Friday, 9 July 2010

Sydney - Day 2 - Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Hanging around the Coat Hanger

overcast 18 °C
Doing Bridge Climb on the Sydney Harbour Bridge (nicknamed The Coat Hanger by Sydneysider) is popular for birthday parties. Many climbers - some from the countryside - come to climb it to mark the special occasion. My first climb was 5 years ago for Stephen's 15th birthday. And today's occasion is for Atta's dad's big Eight Zero's birthday. We need to do something special to mark the occasion.

Apart from birthday party, the bridge climb seems to be the must-do things for tourists, going by the mug shots in the lobby of the many big time celebs from Hollywood heavies (Pierce '007' Brosnan, and Will 'MIB' Smith) to ace-list athletes (don't know any1 of them. Not a particular sport fan).
Since this isn't my first time, the novelty factor had gone, but I can still look forward to the great vista of the Sydney Harbour in the rarefied air on top of the Coat Hanger and the exercise (was told by the guide that there're 1500 steps in the whole bridge climb. Most of it are stair steps). The Sydney Harbour's panorama are one of the world's best 5 port cities (the other 4 being Victoria Harbour of HK, Bosphorous Strait of Istanbul, harbours of Cape Town, and Rio De Janeiro. Been to 3 out of 5. I consider myself lucky).

The iconic bridge is the world's 5th longest arch bridge. The 3rd, and 4th belongs to New Gorge Bridge in W. Virginia(1977), and Bayonne Bridge in New Jersey, NY (1931); both are in USA. The 1st and 2nd are the Chaotienmen Bridge in Chongqing (2009), and Lupu Bridge in Shanghai (2003); both are in China. Like Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Lupu Bridge also provides sightseeing tour. But the climbing are more limited (only 300+ steps along the bow after a speedy transparent elevator trip). If I'm not wrong, the Bayonne Bridge was featured in the remake War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise. It looks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge without the pylons, which by the way, doesn't provide any structural function. It's just a decoration. Hell Gate Bridge, built in 1916, in New York also has stone pylons like the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With the modern cost conscious mentality and the pursuit of pure functional sleek designs, such gargoyle type extraneous decorative elements no longer appear in modern constructions. Every nuts and brick should only be there if it serves to hold up the bridge.

The climb isn't cheap (cost over $250 AUD for "the Bridge Climb" package. The guide told us this is the best climb of the three. The other two being "The Express Climb", and "The Discovery Climb"). Now you understand why people can only afford to do this on special occasions (the big time celebs of course can do it everyday. Time, however, is what they don't have). A family of 4 would set you back by a grand.

During orientation when we were explained the safety procedures and put on blue overall smocks with zippers in the back, and as many things were hung on our waist belt as a cop, we then realised where the money goes. Don't expect to bring the camera along for photos. For safety purposes, you aren't allowed to bring anything with you into the climb. They advised us to keep even our wallets, lose change and jewelleries in the lockers. You will be photographed in two set places on the bridge with their cameras.

A good guide - and Ben was - provided us with many historical titbits about the bridge and a few good yarns to get the climb even more memorable.

There're many climbs throughout the day, I believe we picked one of the best time slot, which extends from 3:15 to 7:15pm. At this time of the year, the sun sets about 6pm. So we get to see the changing sky hues of afternoon, dusk, and nightfall in this official 4 hours slot. Actually, we finished about 8pm. I believe prices vary with different time slots. As this is the best time slot, I imagine it's also the most expensive. The dawn time slot also provides good views, but you have to wake up before dawn in winter. Not an attractive proposition.

Afterwards, we went to the Blue Angel Restaurant in Paddington for dinner, which is famous for seafood, especially lobster. Not my first visit (nor last). Their lobsters sashimi is priced reasonably, but once we asked to add some spaghetti to it, we were charged an extra $10/head. The waiter pitched their famous Wagyu beef, and costs more than the lobster by weight. Since this is special occasion, we ordered 200g per head of these famed Japanese beef. Maybe I just have cheap taste, can't say I dug those beef. There's such thing as being too tender, and too fatty. Too fatty and sated rich for my taste. Give me an average Aussie lean beef any day. They also served us some complimentary ox tongues, which I'm sure is a delicacy in any cuisine. Atta didn't hear that these were ox-tongue and swore that they were Wagyu beef. In her defence, I have to say their texture and taste are oddly similar. I'll take the Laotian grilled ox-tongues over this Blue Angel's one any day. To mark this special occasion, Andy broke open a bottle of Penfold Grange - probably the only Aussie vino that was deserving to go with these foods and occasion. Since its reputation precedes it, I had high expectation of it. I'm no wine connoisseur, what a lovely drop of red! It wasn't wasted on me (for once. Maybe I just have expensive taste for red wine (and cheap taste for red meat)). None of us asked how much this bottle cost, we were afraid of the answer, and seemed down right inappropriate on the occasion.

This place is very popular with Japanese tourists, and it isn't hard to see why.

I checked off 3 items from my bucket list today - Wagyu beef, Penfold Grange, and Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Well, the last one was already checked off 5 years ago. Still two items in one day (actually one evening) is dynamite. I still have egg nog in my bucket list remains unchecked. Believe it or nog!!!

We put back on more calories than what we lost in our bridge climb. Several times more.

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