I’ve finally located other photos of Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship I took the other day.

There were saved in a different folder with no names so I couldn’t find them straight away. Yep, I’m still learning to be more organised. 🙂

So here are more photos of the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney. Can’t wait for Summer to come!

I’ve lived in Pyrmont, a suburb in Sydney within walking distance to Darling Harbour for 10+ years. And walked past Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour countless times. However I only finally went into that garden the very first time this year.

Its beauty and tranquility deeply surprised me and I realised how wrong  I was before.

Sydney Chinese Garden of Friendship is located right in the busy Sydney CBD. From outside, it looks tiny. It costs $6 for the ticket. The ticket is not expensive but I always thought it’s not worth it to go in. After all, I’ve seen the most famous oriental gardens in China and Japan, how good this one could be? I thought it’ll be just a bad copy cat and one won’t have an authentic experience in it.

It was until my mum mentioned that she’d really want to go and have a good look inside when I took both my parents there, very reluctantly. It was one scorching summer day at 35 degrees with no flowing of air. By the time we arrived, all of us were sweating and puffing.

But wait. As soon as we stepped inside the garden, it felt as if we were in a whole different world. I immediately forgot all about traffic and tall buildings surrounding it.  It’s green, beautiful, well planed and oh so pleasant to be in.

Sydney Chinese Garden Of Friendship has a 9 dragon wall, a gorgeous man made lake, a large tea house offering drinks and food, a small hill to climb, ancient treasures and authentic art pieces and many other features. Not to mention the cool breeze of air inside the garden. Temperature seemed to have dropped to a comfortable 25 degrees with lots of shades everywhere. I saw a few people reading and working on the laptops. What a remarkably cool office! No artificial light, air-conditioning to dry your skin and nobody to disturb you. I fell in love.

Whoever built this garden did some a marvellous job – it’s not only authentic but very well maintained.

Guess what? I’m going again this coming Summer. 🙂

More photos will be added in another post.

It seems lately I’ve developed a thing for lighthouses. They are always attractive to me but it’s just recent that I want to to go back to all the pretty lighthouses and take lots of photos of them. Maybe  I’m just in need for a long coastal walk. Maybe I want to use my camera more. Whatever the reason, I wanted to get out to take some photos of Hornby lighthouse.

I’ve not been to Horny lighthouse for more than 10 years by now. It’s the only coloured (white with red stripes) light house around and I really want to walk from the beach all the way up to that hill again.

There are two ways to go to Hornby lighthouse, one is by car, the other is to catch a ferry to Watsons Bay. I did both recently and failed to reach that darn lighthouse both times.

The first time I took the ferry ride from Circular Quay. It was my faulty to leave home too late. Watching the sunset onboard was brilliant but it was getting dark when we arrived at Watsons Bay. Having my parents with me at the time, it was obviously better to take a ride back to the city than rush in the dark or miss the last ferry. No matter, I could easily drive here on my own one day. So I thought.

One Saturday afternoon, I packed my camera and drove to Watsons Bay. It was forecasted to be fine and sunny all day but guess they are right – never trust the weather forecast. It took me a ridiculously long time to drive due to the abnormal heavy traffic. Before I even reached Watsons Bay, it started to drizzle. By the time I got there, it was pouring. I ended up parking my car next to Watsons Bay Bath, waiting for the rain to stop but it didn’t for a long time. So I drove back home in heavy traffic again without getting out of the car, much.

Maybe third time lucky, but I kind of lost interest in going for now. Time is too precious to waste in Sydney traffic.

Here are some photos from my two failed attempts to go to Hornby lighthouse. First ones are from the Ferry ride.

The second lot is near the Gaps, on the way to Watsons Bay. It started to rain already but I couldn’t help to stop and take some photos of this beautiful Macquarie Lighthouse.

You see, I got photos of lighthouse and sunset anyway. 🙂

It was cloudy and trying to rain the whole day but it didn’t.

I haven’t touched my camera for a few months now and finally had a weekend free to do whatever I want to do.

So I was determined to get out and go for a walk last Sunday, via a slightly exciting route hopefully. There were a few options in mind. Walking along Wanda Beach in Sydney South, going to Wastons Bay in Sydney East and walking up all the way to the light house or catching a ferry to Manly Beach in Sydney North and wandering around local beach areas. Wanda Beach could get really windy and there won’t be many photo opportunities in a cloudy day like that. I wanted to snap a few photos, nothing spectacular but at least some scenery photos not just for the beach. Wastons Bay is more photogenic but finding parking on a weekend would be challenging. It could be reached by Ferry too but the Ferry service is not as regular as the one goes to Manly Beach. Alright then, Manly Beach it is.

An overcast day for a ferry ride to Manly

The Circular Quay to Manly Ferry ride is a fabulous way to enjoy the full view of our stunning Sydney Harbour. I felt like a tourist but it’s either this or sitting at home or in the crazily slow Sydney weekend traffic. Our ferry passed Opera house, lots of sailing boats and arrived at Manly Wharf in 30 minutes. Streets of Manly were packed with people getting off the ferry. There were plenty going on last Sunny afternoon in Manly – street artists performing, market stalls along the beach selling over priced merchandise, surfing school students learning in groups.

An easy 15 – 20 minutes’ stroll will take you from Manly Wharf to Shelly Beach. It is a beautiful, calm beach perfect for a leisurely swim or fun snorkel.  The marine life around Shelly Beach is colourful and protected, water crystal clear. I couldn’t help but taking my shoes off and walking into the water. What a refresh feeling! Shame I didn’t have my swimming suites with me.

Manly Beach

Manly to Shelly Beach walk

That’s Shelly Beach behind the pool

Looking back to Manly Beach

If you are feeling energetic and have a full day to wander around, there are a few famous walk tracks around Manly area. The Manly to Spit Bridge walk is one. You can also walk from Manly Beach all the way to North Head. Sunset must be spectacular around Manly Wharf too but not on a heavily overcast day of course. Next time when it’s not rainy, too cold or too hot and sun is visible, I’ll definitely do one of those walks and take some photos of sunset.

Here’s to more pleasant walks in 2018!


If you love site seeing and live in Sydney, you’ll be running out of options very quickly in terms of interesting/exciting sites to see. It is such not a positive note to start with but it is what it is. There’s an Opera House and a Harbour Bridge and lots of beautiful beaches packed with people when weather is warm. Within a couple of hour’s drive, there are blue mountains, central coast and south coast. That’s it.

Out of boredom, I went to blue mountains again one weekend not long ago. It is still very beautiful and very touristy. Almost everyone visiting speaks one kind of foreign language.

A short walk along one of those walking tracks and sitting on the rocks in the sun did wonders for my spirit – I felt happy and alive. Maybe that’s exactly what I need right now: going out for a walk.

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Just found these photos taken a couple of month ago during a weekend trip to Hunter Valley. It looked a little brown but the view was still stunning on the hills.Hunter Valley in Winter

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This Winter in Sydney has been the coldest I could remember but I also discovered the most beautiful Gardens in Winter! Last month, I went to The E.G. Watehhouse Camellia Gardens the first time and fell in love with all those most beautiful blooms right away. Where have I been in the past 20 years?

After days and days of cold rain and harsh wind, you’d think the garden would appear a little sad and gloomy but no:). Camellia flowers are so hardy and care free, they just thrive in any conditions in Autumn, Winter and right through Spring! I start to understand why camellia is Chanel’s favourite flowers now.

Next time I’ll bring my camera and take some photos of those big glorious camellia blooms. For now, I’d just take time to look around and admire!

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Hiding in the bush… sorta?? #sydney

A post shared by Yvonne Zhai (@yvonne_zhai) on


All the images were taken by Jay Smolak Boudoir Photography Sydney.

I was into walks before Sydney started to rain non-stop for weeks. There are more walks planned to do on the weekends but it’ll only happen when the weather gets better. For now, I’ll try to clean my files and catch up with this blog.

Here are some photos from a few weeks again when I did the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. Well, the majority of it anyway. The route started from Bondi Iceberg and by the time I got to Waverley cemetery, it was getting dark. Who could have thought only 4 o’clock somthing, it was already that dark. It took me a good 30 minutes to walk pass the cemetery because there was a longer detour due to road work. An exceedingly beautiful cemetery as it is, it scared the hell out of me to through it in the dark.

By the time I finally walked around Clovelly beach, it was pitch black! There was nobody else on the little winding road except me so I run as fast as possible to go home without doing the Clovelly to Coogee section.

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I lost count on how many times we’ve been to Austinmer Beach but never ever I’ve seen twilight sky as pretty as this. Pink sky is my favourite pink thing in the world and I was so happy to see it the other day. Look at those pink and blue hued cotton candy clouds… and those birds gathered along the swimming pool!

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The last time I walked along Sydney Harbour bridge was nearly 20 years ago. The distance covers from Milsons Point, North Sydney to Sydney CBD the rocks area. Since then I never bothered to do it again. My parents though, walk from North Sydney along the harbour bridge all the way to the suburb of Pyrmont very often. Mum snapped quite a few beautiful images along the way on her phone. That inspired me to walk along the Harbour Bridge again one Saturday afternoon by myself.

I took my Fuji cameral with me and really took my time to wander around and play tourist. The Sydney Harbour Bridge walk is so pleasant with clear signage to show you the way. I snapped a few photos of Sydney Opera house while walking over the bridge and reached Sydney Circular Quay just in time to get ready to watch sunset. Our city sky magically turned into mixed hues of orange, blue, pink and purple. Those bridge climbers looked like tiny dots next to that gigantic Australia flag (which actually looks small in the photo!) on top of Sydney Harbour bridge. Can you see them?

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Over the past 15 years I’ve heard lots of people saying wonderful things about Sydney Flower Market but never made an effort to go until last month. It’s not like I don’t like flowers. Let me just tell ya: Procrastination rules.

Ok so I finally went to Sydney Flower Market on a Friday morning around 8:30 am despite the general advise that you need to be there in the early morning – 5 or 6am kind of early. In my defense, I got up early that morning but I had to spend 2 hours at home to have a full breakfast and commit to a long Yoga-stretch session. Why? Because I felt the urge to stick to my morning routine that day. Anyway, at 8:30 -9am, there were hardly any people left in the market. The market hall looked wet and empty and not so appealing. Those left over flowers were cheap – Tiger Lilies for $5 a bunch, though they looked a little sad to me. I left the market empty handed, thinking it might be a while till my next visit.

Two weeks later a friend of mine got in touch and wanted to catch up at the Sydney flower Market on Saturday morning around 6.30am. Perfect! So we went together, except this time we were late again. Learning from last time’s experience, I ditched my breakfast and stretching session in the morning but my friend overslept a little:). Fortunately, when we got there at 7:30am, the flower market was still full of people, and full of gorgeous flowers too!sydney flower market-7 sydney flower market-2 sydney flower market-1

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Who could resist those precious roses, at $4 a bunch?

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Peonies? Not quite like those ones in instagram photos but I guess they are out of season now.

Determined to grow flowers at home, I even got 3 pots that week. The next Saturday I went back and got another 4 pots of different flowers. It’s totally addictive! Until now, I’ve managed to keep everything alive. Surprise, surprise.

From my personal experience, it’s better to go on a Saturday morning if you are planning your first trip to Sydney Flower Market. It’s catered for the general public on Saturdays, therefore you don’t have to battle with florists and get there super early. The prices are amazingly reasonable, for buyers. You could even get a beautiful, big bunch of flowers for as low as $1. If you love flowers, you’ll love the Sydney flower markets.

Address: 250-318 Parramatta Rd, Homebush West NSW 2129 (Right off Flemington Train Station)

Open time: 5am – 11am
The majority of trading generally takes place before 9am

Due to my ignorance, I didn’t know the existence of Government House Sydney until 2013. After a few failed attempts to get inside the house (every time I went, it was closed to public for various reasons) in the last 4 years, I finally had a “free flow” self guided tour inside the Government House Sydney.

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It was under renovation so the rooms opened to public were the Main Hall, Dining Room, Ante Drawing Room, Drawing Room and Ballroom. On the day during my visit, I’ve learned a lot about this stunning historic building and seen many portraits of royalty and dignitaries.

The Main Hall was The Place to be for the most prestigious society at the time and anyone who had convict blood wouldn’t be invited to be there.

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The Main Hall. Photo source: www.governor.nsw.gov.au

Extravagant dinners with 30+ courses used to be served in the dinning room. Formal dinners were held about 4 times a year there nowadays. Don’t forget to look up – the centre of the dinning room ceiling features wheat, grapes, fruit, fish, fowl and a hare. Fancy hey.

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The Dinning Room. Photo source: www.governor.nsw.gov.au

Why a drawing room was called a drawing room? Because in the old days after the dinner in the dinner room, the ladies would withdraw to that room and leave gentlemen in the dinning room. The ceiling again gives you a clue as to what this room is used for – pictures of four ladies in different seasonal dresses were painted on the ceiling.

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The Drawing Room. Photo source: www.governor.nsw.gov.au

The ballroom was originally known as the music room. The ceiling is decorated with different musical instruments of course.Vice Regal investiture ceremonies take place in this room as well as many other formal events. On these occasions the cedar doors slide back into cavities within the wall creating a reception room over 100ft (30.5m) in length. There used to be a large mirror against the wall on the southern end of the ballroom to create a infinite effect when all the doors were slid back. That wall was knocked down in 1899 to extend this end of the ballroom with a stage and musician’s gallery. On the stage, you’ll see the governor’s throne with New South Wales symbol on it.

Government House Sydney Ballroom

The Ballroom. Photo source: www.governor.nsw.gov.au

The Grounds of Government House Sydney originally included the whole of Bennelong Point, the present Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain and the lower parts of Macquarie and Philip Street. The grounds were gradually reduced to the present area.

Government House is the official residence and office of New South Wales Governors. The first five Governors-General of Australia lived in this house while the Governors of New South Whales during that period lived at Cranbrook in Sydney Bellevue Hill.

From 1996 -2011, the property ceased to be used as a residence, and the Governor’s day office was relocated to the historic Colonial Secretary’s Office Building nearby, at 121 Macquarie Street. In December 2013, Government House resumed its role as the official Residence for the Governor of New South Wales. Only sections of the downstairs are open to the public while the upstairs remains the private residential area of the governors.

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The last interesting fact I learned about the Government House Sydney surprised me a little. Well I’m sure it’s just me. I’ve always loved the look of Sydney Conservatorium of Music, located at the main gate of the Government House Sydney and regarded it as an amazingly beautiful building. Guess what, it used to be the governor’s stable.

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The beautiful Sydney Conservatorium of Music – used to be the governor’s stable.

My tour of the Government House Sydney was amazing and I’d possibly go back to visit again one day. If you are planning a visit to Government House Sydney too, here’s some useful information:

It’s free to visit but prior registration with valid identification is required before entering the house. Tickets are available from the Gatehouse next to the main gate.

Address: Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000. Government House Sydney is located inside Royal Botanic Gardens. The nearest gates to Government House Sydney are located on Macquarie Street to the left of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

The nearest train station is Circular Quay. From there, it is about 10 minutes walk to the gate of the Goverment House Sydney.

Guided tours of Government House Sydney are conducted most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and on all public holidays (except Good Friday and Christmas Day).

The Gardens of Government House Sydney are open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (subject to Vice Regal functions).

You need to leave your bags at the reception except for the very small handbags.

Photos are not allowed to be taken inside the house but there’s a good gallery of photos on the governor’s official website.

Pay special attentions to the ceilings. You’ll figure out the function of a particular room by observing the paintings on the ceiling.

The last point I’d like to mention is make sure you check the visitor information page for Government House Sydney closure dates before you plan to visit. Don’t be like me – I only got inside the house on my 5th trip because I never bothered to check before my first 4 trips.

Government House & Garden. Photo source: www.governor.nsw.gov.au

Government House & Garden. Photo source: www.governor.nsw.gov.au


My dad told me to stand against a wall to improve my posture because I slouch too much. Though I’ve recognised my problem and determined to maintain a good body posture forever, I still forget all about it a lot of times. Indeed it helps your body posture to stand against a wall for even just a few seconds every day.

Talking about walls, I have to show you some interesting ones – those graffiti wall in Sydney. Some of them are purely messy but many are quite arty, don’t you think?

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By the way, I had almost all my hair chopped off 4 months ago. That shocked everyone around me and everyone asked why I did it. The reason is simple, my hair was way too damaged after years of being abused. So far I’m loving my short, low maintenance hair and feeling light as a ballerina!


brighton-le-sands-beach-5 A few months ago I put a photo of Sydney Botany Bay on Instagram without naming the location. It’s a beautiful spot so naturally people started to ask where was the photo taken. “Is that Bondi Beach?” Most people guessed. Ha, the famed Bondi beach. Sure it is vibrant and most popular with tourists but it’s also excessively crowded all the time. If you just want to chill on a beach in a warm summer day, there are many, many other beaches in Sydney to choose from.

The temperature reached above 35 Degrees in Sydney last week and we decided to go to a beach that is relatively easier to park than those most popular beaches in Sydney. Eventually we went to Brighton Le Sand Beach in southern Sydney. What I like about Brighton Le Sand Beach?

  • You can actually swim in the ocean. There’s no wave and the water is not rough and tumble.
  • The white and soft sand.
  • Wide beach that is not so crowded.
  • Safe and clean. Shark net is installed and no general rubbish or broken glasses on the beach.
  • Off street parking and several small car parks.
  • Shaded beach side promenade that stretches for a few kilo meters.
  • A good selection of cafes, restaurants and shops just across the road from the beach.

It was so pleasant to walk on the soft sand bare foot and dip into the warm ocean water. There were many hang gliding people that day which made the sky even prettier.

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Since the end of last year, Woollongong has become my favourite day trip destination, and whenever my parents come back to Sydney, they’d like to go visit Nantien Temple. It’s been nearly three years since my last visit to Nan Tien Temple, which is only a very short drive from Woollongong city and a such surreal place to be in a hot, otherwise buzzing day.

It was so nice take my parents to South Coast to have a chilled out day and tick off one thing off my before year end to do list. One of the other thing I’d really like to do is to take more time to read & finish War and Peace. I enjoy the english version immensely so next week might be the time to slow down and enjoy some quiet reading time finally.

Photos of Nan Tien Temple and Woollongong Light House from this trip, taking with dad’s android mobile phone. Love the layers of clouds on the sky that day!

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