Thoughts on the train to Katoomba

Going up three flights of escalators to reach the ground floor of the Sydney central station was just as easy as finding the platform from where my Intercity for Katoomba would be leaving. There were large television screens giving me all the information I needed. As I turned into the right platform, I just happened to ask the railwayman there, ‘Which of these will be going to Katoomba?’

‘The first four carriages this side.’

That was when I noticed some activity at the far end of the platform side that this man had just pointed out. I thought for one insane moment that I was late and that the train was actually leaving and that the next was after an hour and by then it would be too late to plan a visit to the Blue Mountains… and so enmeshed I was in these thoughts that I simply started running. As I reached the area around the first four carriages, I heard this woman shout at me, ‘Why are you running?’

I was probably too busy trying to see where I could rush and climb on board and so she shouted again, ‘Why are you running? There are still ten minutes before the train leaves for Katoomba.’

‘Oh!’ I said sheepishly, ‘I thought the train was leaving.’

I slowed down to a stop, took a few deep breathes and did a few toe-ups to relax my calf muscles and then looked around. Not many people to go to Katoomba, I thought but then immediately added that there was still time and people will come rushing in at the last minute. Well, actually enough did trickle in from then and so I just went in and climbed to go to the top deck of the compartment so I could get a better view.

The trains here have a unique seat mechanism… watch the video to know about it

This graffiti is interesting… students always want to remain upside down, don’t they?

No escape from graffiti…

Spray paint artists find the strangest of places for working on their creations!

The city rail here in Sydney has all double-deckers and so does the Intercity, I noted with relief. The top deck is presumably a lovely place to sit and so I just went and sat on a seat that would keep me facing the direction in which the train was moving. And just then this rather old granny entered, went to a seat and stopped to look at it with a bit of grumpiness, ‘I can’t always be facing the other side. It makes me dizzy!’ And then she just placed her hands on the hand rest on the seat and pulled it to the other side… and bingo! The seat back-rest slid to the other side with a short metallic screech! I was… well, I was actually staring at her and she was quick to understand that I was surprised at this seat flexibility and so she addressed me, ‘Well, I love this part of the Sydney trains!’

And that was when I decided to take a short video of these flexi-seats in Sydney trains…

The train started at the precise time it was to start and the driver in his own quaint accent told us that we were on time before rattling off the names of all the stations we’d be stopping at. I do remember a few of the names and, in particular, Emu Plains from where the landscape began to change. All the names did sound so romantic and included Leura, Bulaburra, Valley Heights, Warrimoo, Glenbrook, Emu Plains, and Homebush… but what I remember was staring at the way the tree types changed as we hurried towards the mountains.

And from inside the train, the road outside seemed quite unrushed and calm. Even the odd large truck there appeared to be in no hurry and was happily cruising at his desired speed. ‘This is the best part of Australia,’ I thought, ‘these people are never in a hurry and yet nothing remains undone or incomplete or shabbily crafted.’

I remembered the hostess at the hotel telling me that ‘Australians are a laid back people,’ and then with a smile had added, ‘We love our Saturdays and Sundays.’

Charming countryside in Australia…

Even the truckers cruise… unhurried pace… relaxed air everywhere!

One feels like getting off the train and spending the rest of one’s life in a place where everything is unhurried… and nature uses all its colours!

It is the train that moves fast… the town calmly stays there and smiles!

I did notice that though there was no hurry even in the bustle of Sydney, people did seem to be knowing what they had to do and were just doing it… with a smile and with all the time to answer your queries. ‘A rather friendly nation,’ I said to myself and found the old granny opposite looking at me.

‘You’re going to Katoomba, right?’

‘Yes, though I’m not sure where I’ll be going to once I’m there.’

‘Oh! That’s quite simple. Just one straight road there and you keep walking on it to reach the three sisters. You get a lovely view from there.’

‘And what about the buses…’ I began and she immediately said, ‘You can sit in a bus and go, if you want to. But if the weather is good… and it is today… you can walk as well.’

That sounded like a comforting piece of advice and I thought I’ll review the distances there before spending money on the bus tours of Katoomba.

That was when I noticed the mountains that had suddenly come much closer than they were before… and was lost in the blue haze that seemed to surround them. Soundlessly we went on… and I was in my own world that imagined a nice walk up and down the mountain sides. I love trekking and thought it was so exciting to be trekking in Australia!

Well, I did get to walk by the sides of the mountains… and there weren’t many who opted to go this way. I also went hurtling down the mountain to the dense tropical forest far below… to walk on the specially created pathway that took me right into the heart of this forest that was dark and cool and wet and was so full of strange sounds of strange birds! But all that in some other post…

Hues that remain in your memory for a long long time…

…and when all is gone, you look up and pray!

Small towns that seem clutter-free and peaceful and poetic…



























































This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Observing people at the airport

Airport moods can be captured if you walk around and observe. A view of IGIA T3.


‘What do you do when you cross the security check and have a lot of time on your hands?’ asked a friend once.

‘Well, I talk to my wife,’ I answered simply.

‘And when you’re alone?’ he persisted.

‘I observe through my camera,’ I answered, without a pause. This seemed to convince him… no, not my answer, but the speed with which I answered. Truth is that when you answer without pausing to rearrange your thoughts, you tend to reflect facts that generally people love to otherwise garnish or camouflage.

This time when I flew to Sydney, I was alone and that old and faded conversation came back with a bounce. The moment I crossed the security check barrier, I just took out my camera and walked slowly towards the boarding gates thinking, ‘How many times will I capture the same shops, the same interiors?’ And then suddenly I actually began to observe little things that probably escape most fliers.

I saw a family of four take out a home-packed bag and as I closed in on them I overheard that they were actually eating ‘parathas’! Yes, they were stuffed parathas and I was rather surprised. International flights normally give you a lot to eat and most of it is good… which just meant that either this family was too hungry or thought they would be flying out to a distant destination empty-stomach.


Some sleep at airports…










Some are lost in their tech toys…










Some get ‘parathas’ from home…










…and some stretch on the sofa and snore!










My observation did tell me that there were seven types of fliers you generally meet in airport terminals:

  1. The sleepers who just close their eyes and sleep anywhere.
  2. The eaters who either bring eatables from home or just sit around having snacks, juices, colas, and coffee.
  3. The communicators who find some place and sit with their laptops, tabs, iPads or phones and keep themselves busy messaging inanities.
  4. The readers who will take a book out anywhere and start reading. They are the ones who will rely more on what others observe… and will tend to feel they are the most observant without actually having spent any time in observing anything or anyone.
  5. Then there are those who love to while away their time just roaming around aimlessly. They wouldn’t be bothered much about their cameras nor their notebooks or iPads… they just walk around and most of the time they too hardly observe anything or remember much of what they could have seen during their aimless jaunts!
  6. The shoppers and the talkers form the sixth group. They are the ones responsible for the constant hum and buzz that is there on airport terminals… or bus stations or train stations, for that matter… they are forever discussing things and people and form the largest bulk of those waiting at any terminal anywhere.
  7. The last category is of people like me who will take their camera out at the slightest provocation and start clicking…

This picture was clicked at Sydney Airport… thus you see the same moods all over the world!










Here is another playing with his tech toy at Bangkok airport!











The best thing about any airport terminal is that it is always bustling with people as there is one or the other flight leaving at any time of the day or night… well, at least the busier ones are full of people at all times.

My trip to Sydney obviously took me to the T3 at IGIA, New Delhi, which is one of the busier airports in the world.

It isn’t that the categories that I have mentioned were exclusive to the Delhi airport… I could see similar sign in Bangkok and even in Sydney. The pictures that I took are ample proof of what I am saying.

Here is a video on my observations at the airport terminal:


Here are a few more pictures that reflect the inside of an airport:

The reflective roof at Bangkok airport… catching moods from a different angle!














Picture taken in the boarding area at Bangkok airport… when it is dark outside, the interior reflects well!

This is me… at IGIA T3… on my way to Sydney!



…and this too is me… on my way back to Delhi at the Sydney airport.




This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at


Sydney in reflections

Sydney reflected in the lightboxes kept out on the promenade near the Opera House…


I was lucky to be in Sydney during the Vivid Light Show days… the city is colourfully reflected here


What do you see in a city like Sydney with high rises and lots of reflective surface? Well, reflections that can be exotic, thoughtful, or even naughty!

A reflection is the soul of any city… it nudges its inhabitants to look into those areas that need to be redone. It tells them of the charm of walking by a certain place when they wish to feel the warmth of the city. Reflections sell, cajole, whisper, seduce, and even mesmerize. I was totally charmed by the reflections that Sydney gave me… and photographing them was indeed a pleasure.

There were reflections everywhere. But not just the glass on buildings, I managed to capture quite a few pictures of Sydney reflected in the wind screens of buses and cabs too. Then there were the occasional water puddles where some interesting reflections emerged. Being next to the sea, the harbour area did have reflections but the waves made them simply impossible.

My favourite reflection of a Sydney moment!


I realised that reflections have the power to make you stop even when you are in a hurry… and think of things that will bring a smile on your face. They transport you back into the past… they take you for a ride into the future, and sometimes they just let you laze around in the present with a happy smile that says: ‘I love life!’

Well, yes, this is one lesson that Sydney offered to anyone who bothered to stop and talk to it or listen to what it whispered through the wind that meandered from the corners of every street. It said with a lot of conviction that it loved life and that nothing else really mattered.

I have been reading a quaint travelogue by Bill Bryson and it is his journey through Australia. In ‘Down Under’, Bill writes:

“Personally, I think Australians ought to be extremely proud that from the most awkwardly unpropitious beginnings, in a remote and challenging place, they created a prosperous and dynamic society. That is exceedingly good going. So what if dear old gramps was a bit of a sticky-fingered felon in his youth? Look what he left behind.”

I was reading this paragraph as I sat on a bench in martin Place in Sydney and had just been photographing a few of the lovely reflections that the city architecture made possible. And I told myself, ‘Well, indeed, Sydney buildings do reflect a beautiful present and these reflections tell me how hard the past generations must have worked… how hard and with a really grand futuristic vision.’

It is the futuristic vision that a city always reflects… look at any of the great cities around the world. They would be reflecting the vision of its architects – its socio-political, economic, and cultural thinkers! The reflections of Sydney have certainly made an indelible impression on me and of all the things that will make me go back to this country these are going to be a part of the strongest reasons! Yes, reflections that are powerful, do sell.

Reflections can create caricatures that become immediately endearing and memorable…

..or a full scale reflection of the busy high-rise buildings…






















Reflections in water puddles… while climbing up to the harbour bridge.











The Sydney sky in a reflection!










The trendiest shopping area in an appropriately golden hue… captured towards evening!

















Not ‘just another reflection’ but one that gets the impact of a sun preparing to set!






















Even trees must be wondering at the ever changing city that is reflected by tall buildings!






















The icon of Sydney in all it’s reflected glory!

















The evening sky of Sydney reflected in a lamp-post near the Opera House.















































This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Sustainable Sydney

Reading culture on the streets of Sydney!

There is art everywhere in Sydney. I stepped out of Amora on Jamison Street and came face to face with art. Walk in any direction and you’ll encounter art. In front of building, in laneways, near parks, or wherever the city gives enough space for yet another installation.

When I enquired I was told about the plan to convert Sydney into an Art Hub by 2030… they say they will include the Laneway art program, City spaces, Green square and a whole lot of other permanent and temporary art plans and policies to have a ‘sustainable’ Sydney soon. The word ‘sustainable’ did ring a bell… enough art and culture strewn across the city will surely have a positive effect on the attitudes and outlooks of the people who are exposed to it day In and day out. This did seem to me to be a rather sound definition of ‘sustainable’.

Fascinating display of hanging cages in a lane off the main George Street…

Well, for those who are interested, the Guiding Principles for the implementation of public art across the City of Sydney local government area are:

  • Align significant City Art projects with major Sustainable Sydney 2030 urban design projects
  • Recognise and celebrate Aboriginal stories and heritage in the public domain
  • Support local artists and activate city places through temporary art projects
  • Support vibrant places in Village Centres with community art and City Art projects
  • Promote high quality public art in private development
  • Support stakeholder and government partners to facilitate public art opportunities
  • Manage and maintain the City’s collection of permanent art works, monuments and memorials
  • Initiate and implement programs to communicate, educate and engage the public about City Art

Just walk in any direction of inner Sydney and you are sure to bump into the most intriguing and fascinating examples of art. The best way to do this is to walk down George Street and stop at every crossing, walk a bit in the left and right direction, come back and resume the walk. Do this until you’ve covered the distance from the harbour end to the China Town end… and then do the same with Elizabeth Street or just amble across to the Darling harbour side… wherever you go, you’re sure to bump into the most extraordinary art examples.

From the Lin Li Golden Watermouth a 1999 creation at the start of Chinatown to the famous Touchstones at Aurora Place conceptualised by Kan Yasuda. This piece of art, they say, encourages the connection between the architect and the artist… see for yourself:


An interesting doorway sculpture…


Golden Watermouth near China Town in Sydney…




Then you see the wild boar or Il Porcellino at the top of hill outside the Sydney Hospital. People rub his nose, make a wish, drop a coin in his basket and have a photograph taken standing near him… and I did the same!


The Sydney pig that everyone loves!

We did the ‘free tour’ with Justine, an architecture student, and the first artwork that she pointed out near the Townhall was ‘Eternity’ written just below on the subway where we stood. There is a rather interesting story to this word, she told us… and went on to tell us all about Arthur Stace who wrote the word all over the city and it was only much later that the people discovered who the person was who was doing this. A website also tells us his story and points out that “he would get up in the early hours of the morning, and leave his home in Pyrmont at 5:00 or 5:30am, after praying an hour or so. He would go where he believed God had directed him that particular day, and write every hundred metres or so on the pavement (sidewalk), as it seemed most visible. Eternity. And he’d be home by ten that morning. 

He went all over: Wynyard, Glebe, Paddington, Randwick, Central Station; A very slight figure, 5’3″, grey-haired. He experimented with variations at times, but in the end he finished as he had begun — Eternity. Others claimed responsibility for the messages, for they were the object of a prolonged and public curiosity, the subject of columnist’s review and speculation, but he did not come forward. He saw his mission as evangelistic, but he didn’t want the publicity for himself; it was a thing between him and God. 

It wasn’t until 1956 that the puzzle was solved. Stace was the cleaner, and a prayer leader at the Burton Street Baptist Church, where the Rev. Lisle M. Thompson was the minister. Lisle one day saw Arthur writing Eternity on the pavement (sidewalk), not knowing he was being seen.”

There is interesting story behind this one…


To me, the best part of my stay in Sydney was trying to discover as many artworks as possible… and I did stumble on to many. A few that really impressed me were the totem pole near the University of Sydney, the hanging cages in the inner city, the three monkeys on a pub doorway near Chinatown, and a man reading his newspaper!

Not that the others were not good… they are excellent pieces of art and are doing their bit in converting Sydney into a really sustainable city!


The artworks on the streets are more than life-size… and you bump into them in the most unexpected spots!


The stencilled look suits this one…


Artworks are everywhere you look… even on the top of buildings!


I found this one as I was walking towards the Opera house from my hotel…

Even spaces inside buildings are used to display art… on the GF where the Expedia office was…


Loved this totem pole in a park near the University of Sydney…


Abstract art abounds… and gives huge concrete structures a poetic charm!


Came across this one near the Darling Harbour area!


The first canon kept quite near the Circular Quay… Justine, my tour guide is explaining it’s history to us.


The Queen must be happy to see Sydney promoting art…

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Yes, you can climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

That’s the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind me… and yes, it is possible to climb the arch of the bridge for a fee!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is not just an iconic structure that can be photographed and talked about… you can actually climb it to the top. Yes, be 134 metres above the city of Sydney. This is an amazing experience… though the cost starts from 208 Australian dollars and can go up to around 300 AuDs.

The bridge climbing fee pamphlet

There are many who’d want to go and climb just the pylon which is high enough though probably not as adventurous as the actual arch climb.

What did I do? Well, I climbed the Pylon and then took a lot of pictures of other tourists who had opted for the bridge climb. The top of the Pylon is high enough and one can get a lot of lovely pictures of the city, the Opera House, and even the bridge! Had I opted to climb the arch of the bridge, I’d have had to leave my personal belongings back and this includes the camera! I personally think this was what made me opt out of the bridge climb… and no, it wasn’t the daunting climb fee surely!

The plaque on the bridge…

Entrance for those who wish to climb up the Pylon…

As you climb the narrow stairway, you see come across quotes and models telling you bits of the bridge history!

The Pylon is the concrete structure that supports the arch and there are four of them… the best thing is that you get to read all about the history of the bridge when you reach the top of the Pylon. There is a small audi too where you can sit and enjoy a short film on the making of the bridge. And lastly, of course, the souvenir shop here is a small cute area where you can buy the usual fridge magnets, key-chains, koalas and kangaroos!

Climbing up was a small group of school students and their teacher – I wouldn’t know if he was their history teacher – but he was explaining the importance of the artefacts displayed and was doing it with so much involvement and energy that I just stood there and listened to his monologue! This was probably the best history lecture I’ve ever attended in all my life. I almost wished then that all history teachers were like him and that all our school kids too went on discovery visits with the kind of seriousness that I noticed in the kids there.

The arch as seen from the top of the Pylon


The arch climbers… wow! now if that isn’t being brave, then what is?


Another picture of the arch climbers!


The top of the arch… and you cross over to the other side for your climb down…phew!


But let us get back to the climbing of the bridge… yes, it is steep and you naturally have to be in top shape to opt for it. Even the Pylon climb is pretty exhausting but you tend to go up the stairs from within the building and get to see the sights only once you’re at the top. The Pylon top has a convenient metal bench running all along the length and breadth of the boundary and you can climb it for getting the best angles while clicking the bridge, the city, or the Opera House. There is protective glass above the wall so don’t even think of leaning out to see how fast the Sydney traffic goes!

When I explained all this to my wife, she asked, ‘Hmmm, anything else associated with the bridge that is interesting?’

‘Not that I can remember,’ I said.

‘There are people who plan to get married on top of the bridge… and that must be breath-taking and charming!’ She then looked at me with that victorious smile that clearly states that she has been reading all the connected websites!

I admitted that I was busy exploring Sydney in person and had, therefore, not read as much as her.

‘Lovely pictures,’ she murmured, and then turned towards me and said, ‘I think we’ll climb the bridge arch together some time in the future!’

Now that’s the best suggestion anyone could ever have put forward… and I nodded in agreement, hoping that Expedia top bosses would think of send the two of us for a deeper exploration of this continent!


The sea viewed from the top of the Pylon…


The traffic going towards the main city… and the central hub of Sydney!

Another endearing view of the bridge!


The bridge viewed from ‘The Rocks’…


The bridge arch top and the north end of Sydney…


This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Graffiti in Sydney

The spray paint artist whom I interviewed was Chefu… the video is towards the end of this post.

Graffiti can be both inspiring and intimidating… legal as well as illegal… accepted and unacceptable… creative and it can be just a mishmash of abuses hurled at you with a spray can from a wall! Sydney has its own dose of wall paintings or graffiti… and I did go in search of the best of the lot.

You cannot just stroll in the most touristy of places and expect some classic graffiti examples… though I did stumble onto a couple of them on The Rocks near the harbour bridge.

An interesting example of wall graffiti in The Rocks, sydney…


This one is awesome in its creative hug… loved it! Depicts the history of ‘The Rocks’ here…


..and this is creative graffiti… and a dead-end! 🙂


I was actually walking near the docks next to the Darling harbour area when I happened to meet this reticent local and we had a brief but interesting conversation.

‘I would love to explore some of the best wall art in Sydney.’ I said after the preliminaries of ‘excuse me, do you have some time?’ and ‘I am not from Sydney but I’ve been staying here for long enough to know quite a bit about the city’ sort of addresses were over.

‘Yes, you’ll need to take a tram from here to the Central and then get a train or a bus to Newtown.’ Sydneysiders do come to the point straight on and do it with a smile a lot of serious nods of their heads… or maybe, it is like this whenever any local is talking to a foreigner anywhere. Well, he did tell me how to reach the heart of graffiti in Sydney. I then remembered that somewhat similar information was volunteered by Dacey Nicoletti at the Expedia office on Kings Street and even that spray paint artist I had met on the Circular Quay on my first evening in Sydney. And, it will actually be right to watch that video interview I had with that spray paint artist before we wander further into the wall art of Sydney:

Talking of the characteristics that are normally associated with wall art, here’s what Oh Really Magazine has to say:

‘Even though Clover Moore has recognised aerosol art as legitimate, she obviously likes what street art represents, but doesn’t want to help the private citizens who genuinely would like to commission local artists.

What fat council worker, whose weekly culture consists of watching funniest home videos, has the power to decide what “Art” is and what isn’t. Based on a development application that costs hundreds of dollars? Sydney capitalism working at its best. Soon it’ll be just figurative painting, flowers, advertising and landscapes to be seen on the streets, Booorrhoooring.

If you ever wondered why Sydney’s street art has a playfully violent theme to it, just look to the authoritarian councils passing legislation to suppress it.’

I had actually read this passage before I went searching for some interesting samples of wall art in Sydney. I didn’t find many on the main roads anywhere… had to traverse to the bylanes of Newtown and I did discover great walls! There were times when I was the only person walking in silence, wondering if I was going in the right direction… and there was no right direction as you just come face-to-face with some stunning example if you’re actively searching for them. They can be high up on some terrace wall, or in a narrow lane with a car parked in front, or a transmission box, or even inside some Take-away!

Discovering interesting graffiti needs time, patience, and a lot of intuitive walking around with a brave face! Sharing a few of the pictures that I clicked of the graffiti that I saw in Sydney…

The Artists

The pencil artist I met near the Town Hall


saw him busy near the Circular Quay… he said he’s done a few walls as well.


Painting the Sydney harbour in his own way… imagine what this would look like on a huge side wall!


Some examples of  wall art in Newtown

The wall by the side of the main road there…


This one is in the main market street of Newtown, Sydney


Artworks can be complex at times…


They can be a vehicle for protest and can be perched high in their fight for more visibility!


…even as high as this one… and they can be vocal as well!


Does wall art enhance the aesthetics of a place? Does it make a statement on the current state of the people there?


Sometimes this is what people are talking about! This is what changes the fabric of a society!


Close-up of wall-art…


Another artwork that I liked for its sheer flow of intent!


This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Sydney lights

Sydney lights from the window of Amora at Jamison Road… the hotel where I was staying

I stood on the harbour bridge in Sydney and looked out towards the city. The night was dark and the city lights gave me a view that was unforgettable. I turned my glance towards the Opera House and saw a ferry gliding over the calm sea with its lights creating reflected hues that seemed heavenly.

On another evening I walked towards the Opera House to see an entirely different sight slowly come to life… the bridge with its lights and the city that seemed quite magical.

I realised later that city lights and the dark skies generally come together to create the greatest show for human sensibilities… and in Sydney this combination was probably the deadliest!

No wonder then that the poet within me nudged me on to pen these lines:

You make me happy, Sydney lights

Far away and it’s just a speck

A room up there, down there a deck

Is someone also watching me?

I too would seem a mere speck!

See lights reflected by a boat

Who could this be who writes a note?

It’s dark and not much I can see

Just specks and what do they denote?

Light specks seem watchful in the dark

And also seem to love the dark

Do I see darkness dancing wild

With lighted steps making a mark?

Whatever be the game out there

Both don’t mind me stand there and stare

I walk and stop, then wait and look

And Sydney lights are everywhere!

(A poem written to remember the lovely Sydney lights.)

Well, Sydney lights do weave some sort of a magic on people… and I find not just me but a lot of others walking up and down the harbour side near the Opera House, or walking up to the bridge for a better view… and some even go up the Sydney Tower to look down and dream!

All that I can share with you are a few pictures and my words so saturated with my passionate

A twilight view of the harbour bridge from the Opera House… love this shot!

Sydney lights from the walkway of Opera House…

Was difficult… but managed this shot from my Sony point-and-shoot!

Like the tone of the picture he

The Vivid Light Show lights on the Museum of Contemporary Ar

See the Vivid Light Show effects on the Sydney buildings… and you’ll experience a fraction of the mesmerizing display

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Bus art in Sydney

Bus art_Sydney

Art attracts. Even advertisements, if done well, can add to the charm of any city. They can be placed strategically on the city transport as well… buses, taxis, trams, trains, city rail, intercity, monorail, rickshaws, and any other that may be there.

‘The buses here carry ads but in restricted areas,’ I asked a bus driver who had some time with him.

‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘though the hop-on-hop-off buses are painted all over. The other buses do have specified parts where the artwork can be displayed.’

During my stay in Sydney I did photograph a lot of buses and bus-stops and found that they had ads from a lot of sources and included technology, movies, television, travel, exploring, telecom, stores, insurance, loan, cosmetics, clothing, food, ice-cream, city, and even instructions for the commuter. The ads were vibrant and catchy… and were never ill-conceived or badly produced. They were certainly adding to the charm of this lovely city in NSW, Australia.

Instructional ads are at the right spot all over… even inside the buses, trams, and trains!

I personally loved these ads promoting a healthy life-style!

‘Do buses stop anywhere? I mean, even where there is no bus stop?’

‘No. In fact, there are times when the bus wouldn’t stop at all unless the people waiting there indicate that they want it to stop.’

I must’ve given a rather quizzed look, for this person who I was talking to while waiting for a bus, continued, ‘Buses here run on time and you can actually rely on the schedule that is there at all bus stops.’

This was indeed the truth. The schedule gave me not just the timings but also the bus routes and I was able to decide all by myself that I would get almost all the buses with a 4 and 2 in the beginning to reach Surry Hills from this stop near the Sydney Central. It was actually easy to understand and make use of road transport in this big bustling city.

I also remembered then that the driver of the cab that I took for the hotel from the airport was not wearing a seat belt. Interestingly, he told me that the cab drivers in Sydney were exempt from wearing seat belts during their work hours… that is, if they were on a personal trip, they would need to wear a belt. This exemption was not valid for any other driver of any other vehicle.

‘Why exempt just cab drivers?’ I asked.

‘Even I don’t know. But I can hazard a guess… could be because we have to get down to help our passengers so often and a belt would make us do our work just that bit slower.’

So obviously there are people who think and care for the working classes out there in Sydney. They don’t come out with regulations just because regulation-making is to be done… they do it because it would benefit everyone.

But let us come back to the subject of buses and the lovely ads on them. They are surely not an eye-sore and the pictures that I have taken will reinforce what I have said about them. And even Marshall McLuhan has remarked: ‘Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.’

Enjoy the pictures…

The fully art-covered Hop-on Hop-off buses of Sydney

Even bus-stops have lovely back-lit ads that add to the charm!

Large windows and a specified place for ads… all sorts of ads can be seen

Films, theatre, art… all feature on buses…

Ads here do make you think… and talk about them…

Another instance of a bus-stop ad blitz!

This ad is not going to hamper the view for a commuter sitting inside…

This blog post has been contributed by Arvind Passey on his travel to Australia. Read more about Arvind at

Edinburgh in a day – Part 2

One of my favorite authors of fiction is Dr. Alexander McCall Smith who has written the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, and the 44 Scotland Yard series amongst others. I am addicted to his books and especially enjoyed the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series since I grew up in Botswana which is where the stories are based too. I had written to him and received a warm reply in which he told me about the event happening at St. Cecilia’s Hall. The evening started off with a small piece on the bagpipes by a student of the University of Edinburgh, followed by an introduction by AMcCS, a lecture on the works of the poet W.H. Auden by Prof. Mendelson from Columbia University, and ended spectacularly with a performance comprising of ‘The Willowwren and the Stare’ (a poem of Auden’s) set to tune.  After this, I met with AMcCS who interacted with me for a little while, took photos with me, and gladly signed all the books of his that I had brought with me from India! As you can imagine, I was over the moon 🙂

AMcCS with me after the lecture!

This was followed by a lovely dinner at the David Bann restaurant which came recommended highly especially for a vegetarian like me. The restaurant was another gem of a tip from my Expedia host from the London office. The travel pointers from the Expedia folks have been spot on and the Expedia experience a treat.  From here I walked most of the Royal Mile, back to Waverley through the market side this time, and on to Calton Hill. Here one could see the National Monument (based on the Parthenon), the Nelson Monument, etc., apart from fantastic views of the city, Arthur’s Seat, and the Firth of Forth. It was beautiful at sunset and I climbed down the hill with just enough time to visit the Mound for a view of the Edinburgh Castle after walking through St. Andrew’s Square. It was raining as I head to the Waverley Station for my Caledonian Express rain back to London, but who am I to complain after a glorious day outdoors? 🙂

Edinburgh in a day – Part 1

I had decided to make a day trip to Edinburgh from London and that was easier said than done. I ended up taking the day train from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley and took almost 5 hours. One could have reached Paris or Brussels in half the time from London. However, as it turned out, the trip was my favorite of the lot and worth the time and expense.  I reached Edinburgh around 1430 hrs and was taking the overnight sleepr train back. This basically meant that I spent more time traveling than actually being in Edinburgh. I ought to have named this post ‘Edinburgh in an afternoon’, me thinks!

When I mentioned to my host from the Expedia office in London that I am really keen to visit Edinburgh, she went out of her way to help me get there. She said that Edinburgh was a beautiful city to visit and gave me pointers on places to visit. She asked some of her friends for activities to be done there and places to visit. The dungeon tour described below came highly recommended and can be booked through the Expedia site with Mercat tours (under their ‘Things to do’ category.

The ‘dungeon master’ whose commentary for the tour of the underground was fantastic!


Anyway, after getting out of the station, my agenda as proposed by a friend was to walk to ‘The Mound’ for apparently lovely views of the Edinburgh castle. I was half-way there, when I noticed a hoarding with directions to the National Museum of Scotland and the museum hound that I am, sniffed my way to the museum instead thinking I could swing by the Mound for the Castle view anytime while the museum closed at 5 pm. So, off I trekked to the museum across Waverley and the North Bridge, when I came across a tour of the so-called ‘underground city’ or dungeons of Edinburgh (which came highly recommended). They had a 5.30 pm slot open for the Historical and Ghost tour which I promptly grabbed. So after my visit to the museum and grabbing a bite at the ‘Piemaker’, I set off to the dungeon tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour which ended with some Scotch Whiskey and Scottish Shortbread at a pub called the Banshee Labyrinth. This was on Niddry Street and very close to St. Cecilia’s Hall which was the reason I was actually in Edinburgh.