I spent seven crazy days in Sydney and there's so much I could post about - which I will eventually, but I first wanted to jot down my memories of a very calm afternoon spent in the Chinese Garden of Friendship, which is located in Darling Harbour in Sydney.
I had a Sydney card which, for approx AUD$150 allowed me entry to six attractions around the city but it was only AUD$6 for entry to the garden, which is a bargain by any standards in rip-off Australia (Sorry but the whole country is crazy expensive, no matter what currency you compare it to). Darling Harbour was jam-packed on this Sunday afternoon, people milling around eating ice-cream, shrieks from children playing nearby and some lovely tuneful jazz coming from street buskers nearby. I ducked into the Garden and I was immediately calmed by it's atmosphere and serenity, surprising given the scene I had just come from.
The Gardens are modelled on traditional Chinese gardens and symbolize the bond between Australia and China. The were opened in 1988 during the Sydney bicentennial celebrations and it's a popular venue for weddings and wedding photography due to the abundance of plant life and water features. There are guided tours but I chose to just take the leaflet and go by myself, enjoying the solitude and admiring the traditional Chinese art work and artefacts as well as the garden itself.
Throughout the garden you see all five elements reflected and used - wood, fire, earth, water and metal. There are also representations of the Yin-Yang symbols and the garden itself is based around these principles obviously perfecting the balance of the garden.
I particularly liked the three Ying Rock sculptures in the Penjing courtyard. Apparently this is a rare rock, and the sculptures are quite impressive. They are also surrounded by miniature landscapes and bonsai trees (Penjing is an art form of creating miniature landscapes, so it's suitably named!).
There's also a place to try on Imperial costumes: ornate designed gowns from the Ming Dynasty, and have photos taken (so children will be entertained) and Chinese tea and dumplings are served in the teahouse so you could genuinely spend hours here. I even spotted some (not-so-friendly) wildlife!
It's not a place I would have really considered visiting, particularly whilst in Sydney but now it's on my highly recommended list (along with the aquarium). Whether just ducking into the shade, out of busy city-life or to genuinely explore the ideas and philosophy, it's a wonderful place to while away some time and it was a really different, beautiful experience for me.