Sydney, Australia
There is only one place in the world to be for New Year’s Eve, and that is Sydney. The city is packed and the popularity, no doubt, is largely due to Sydney being one of the most beautiful cities in the southern hemisphere. The temperatures, in the 80’s to 90’s F, are in stark contrast to what one usually expects on a New Year’s Eve. The iconic opera house, bridge, and large bay with numerous launch firework launch points all come together for what is undeniably the best firework display I have seen, filling, from where I sat, my entire field of vision with pyrotechnics and the continuous rumbling surround sound of the explosions overhead. I took my best yet fireworks photos there, but even they hardly do justice to the experience.
The fireworks display is actually two fireworks display, a family friendly one at 9 pm and a longer display beginning at the stroke of midnight. Drawing a crowd of over one and a half million, many of them like me from far overseas, the six million dollar display uses 8.5 tons of fireworks. Interestingly to me, it is also surprisingly young – first produced in 1995, no doubt in celebration of my birth that year.
Many people lined up by 7 in the morning to get spots facing the iconic opera house. I personally saw the line around 10 am on my way to the NSW Art Gallery, and it was huge, stretching something like a mile. All those poor people also got smashed by a thunderstorm that came in around 4 in the afternoon. I had no desire to spend my day in such a way, so I first saw the 9 pm showing at a park on Glebe Point –but was terribly disappointed as that spot, while being able to see many of the launch points, had numerous obstructions blocking the show –the spot was packed anyway.

The crowd for the 9 pm showing in Glebe

A bit pessimistic about the whole show, I instead made by way to a private wharf near Pirrama Park (actually I was going to somewhere, but the ferry I was going to ride there was closed for the show, so I improvised). At 11:15 pm when I arrived, only a handful of people where there, and I sat down with my feet dangling over the water, and chatted for a bit with a Swedish family. By the time of the show, an amiable, but still small crowd had gathered, and I realized I had one of the best spots in the whole city – as I learned later those in the ‘better’ spots near the Opera House mostly were packed in like sardines, holding up a wall of cellphones over each other’s heads to see the show.
It was a great show, people cheered, took lots of photos, and then we all headed back, absolutely packing public transit – there was a mosh pit light-heartedly formed on my light rail train, for one, in response to the crowding.
Manly Beach

But otherwise, I was glad to get out of Sydney into the Blue Mountains, where I am now. Sydney is a nice city, with a few iconic photo spots, and a stunning botanical garden right in the heart of the city. The beaches are wonderful, if packed. The public transit is great, and the people are incredibly friendly. Yet, perhaps my discontent is because so much of the great sights are just, well stereotypical sights you’ve already seen though-out your life in photos. If there’s a deeper, intriguing level of culture and experience to be found here, I haven’t seen a hint of it myself. Pretty, welcoming, iconic, Sydney has a pretty face, but I feel, what the surface has in beauty, is lost by a lack of anything more.
Sydney from a ferry


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