A New Year's Eve You Won't Forget
by Harold Stephens,
Travel Correspondent for Thai Airways International
Don’t know where to go this New Year’s Eve. How about something different? How about New Year's Eve at Sydney Harbour. You want something different, and something both grand and spectacular at the same time, well this is it.
Australia’s Sydney Harbour is possibly the best place in the world to farewell the old year and usher in the new. Each year, the balmy summer celebrations on the harbour brings out hoards of partygoers looking to get the perfect view of the spectacular fireworks that have made Sydney world-renown for its end of year celebrations/
Let’s start at Circular Quay. There’s nothing really circular about Circular Quay, but it's listed in all the tourist brochures and guide books. and tour buses pass through the area telling aboard which way to look.
But to get into the swing of New Years at Circular
Quay, you have to do your visiting on foot, particularly when everyone is our to celebrate. Here at Circular Quay all Sydney will pass before you, on parade as you would find on the Atlantic City boardwalk.
But there's more than people watching. There’s street entertainment. Downunder they call them buskers, people who entertain by dancing, singing, reciting or doing tricks on the streets; all for whatever change people ant to trop into their hats.
Buskers can keep you amused for hours. I watched one young boy who was not only the image of Michael Jackson, but performed like him as well. Down the street was a juggling duo and a bit farther a violinist, Chinese who might have been moonlighting from the Opera House; he was that good
In the meantime, ferry boats go whipping in and out, a Highlander in a pleated kilt might step down a gangplank playing his bagpipes, and a group of merrymaker will disembarked from a luxury liner at the far end of the Quay.
Seagulls, by the swarm, were also hawking for hand outs. Warning: beep your fish and chips on your lap and not on the bench beside you.
For a reminder, Circular Quay and nearby Macquarie Place have their attractions, but they too should be taken in slowly.
Circular Quay was the original landing site of the First Fleet, and Tank Stream which provided Sydney with its early water supply ran into the harbour here. Today it runs underground.
In the old days, as now, Circular Quay was an impressive sight. Old photographs show square rigged sailing ships moored at the piers, a veritable forest of masts crowding the skyline.
From Circular Quay wander to Macquarie Place, with another touch of history. As every schoolboy knows, Sydney was founded as a colony for British convicts. The First Fleet arrived, eleven ships carrying some 1,000 convicts, under the command of Captain Phillip aboard his flagship, HMS Siria.
It was a bad start, and things did not go well until a man named Colonel Lachlan Macquarie arrived on the scene. He took over as governor in 1810, and things began to happen. He found that convicts did have something to contribute. Francis Greenway, a forger, was one such man. Governor Macquarie commissioned him to design a series of public buildings, some of which are the finest in Sydney today.
In the square you will find a cannon and an anchor from Capt. Phillips First Fleet. There are a number of other pieces of colonial memorabilia that include gas lamps, a drinking fountain dated 1857, and an obelisk indicating distance to various points in the colony.
Technically, Sydney’s real centre in Martain Place, a pedestrian mall extending from Macquarie Street to George Street behind the massive GPO. This is another popular lunch time entertainment spot, much like Circular Quay, with buskers by the score doing their acts. The Cenotaph war memorial is here, and also a tourist information booth.
Sydney’s city centre is a mini-Manhattan. Skyscrapers stand side by side with old, Victorian-looking buildings. You have to meander along the street to feel its mood. The street names here read like a London directory: Pitt, George, Elizabeth, Kent, Phillips.
The Queen Victoria Building is a showpiece that will be lighted up.. It was built in the style of a Byzantine palace in 1898 and was until recently a fruit and vegetable market. Since then it has been painstakingly restored and now houses some 200 shops, cafes and restaurants and all will be open/
These who are interested in Aborigine art will see some fine examples in the art shops.
Then in Central there’s a pub that will be bursting at the seams. Everyone knows how Australians value their pubs, almost with reverence. This one is in the basement of the Hilton Hotel, not a likely place for an authentic Aussie pub but it’s an exception. It’s called the Marble Bar and is truly a Victorian extravaganza. It was built by George Adams, a man who understood the Australian lust for gambling and made a fortune from it. He founded the Tattersall lotteries, known as Tattslotto.
George Adams also built the Adams Hotel which was originally called O'Brien's Pub. It was torn down to make room for the Hilton. The old hotel bar was carefully dismantled and reassembled in its present location like some archaeological wonder.
But if you really want the best New Years’ experience, you need to be on the water because that’s where the real party is. Avoid the crowds along the foreshore and indulge in a luxury dinner in the one of the best cruise venues. Dress up for the occasion and enjoy the comfort of these luxurious vessels as you celebrate the New Year in style.
The Harbour of Light parade has become synonymous with New Years Eve and Sydney Harbour. Usually starting after the 9pm fireworks show, more than 50 vessels, including tall ships, Sydney's Heritage Fleet, commercial charter boats, private vessels and ferries will parade around the harbour decked out in rope light to create an illuminating and magical effect.
Each year, a number of vessels work together to design and implement a water spectacular on what is a very special occasion on the Harbour. The vessels create a dazzling display of light usually reflecting the New Year’s Eve theme for each year.
It’s not too late. Let a THAI flight carry you to Sydney.
E-mail: ROH Weekly Travel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: The article is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the view of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited.