Melbourne has a strong Chinese community, something that I noticed the moment I got off the plane. The signs at the airport were written in English and Chinese. Of course, maybe that’s just because I got off a Chinese airline. But today’s visit to the Chinese Garden of Friendship basically said it loud and clear: there is a strong and thriving Asian community here in Australia.
Located in Darling Harbour, just a short walk away from Chinatown, the Chinese Garden of Friendship was createdi n 1988 to celebrate Sydney’s relationship with her sister city, Guangzhou, China. It was designed with the Taoist principles of “Yin-Yang” and the five opposite elements – earth, water, fire, metal, and wood – in mind. This is the perfect place to relax…. breathe in the fresh air… watch the koi fish swim peacefully in the lake… forget all about the hustle and bustle of the city…
They do charge an admission fee of $6, but don’t let that deter you. I think this place is definitely worth it!
As soon as we entered, we headed to the Teahouse for our brunch. The Teahouse has a n East-meets-West menu with Chinese as well as English tea. You have the option of pork buns as well as scones with jam and cream, so…we did!
Let’s be real, the food wasn’t anything to rave about, but eating while chilling next to a beautiful lake, watching the koi fish circle in the water next to you, enjoying the peaceful scenery… yeah, not a bad start to the day.
While we were eating, a semi-aggressive duck came over looking for scraps, and there was also this weird lizard who came right up to us…. needless to say the animals here are used to visitors feeding them. The lizard definitely freaked a few people out, and attracted some paparazzi in the form of tourists with cameras. (including me.)
While we were walking around, we saw a woman dressed in traditional Chinese wardrobe, along with two boys. They were posing for pictures so I thought that they might work for the garden, or maybe they do this for fun or to celebrate their heritage? I almost asked them for a picture, but I’m glad I didn’t, because this happened next:
So it turns out that there’s a costume rental place in the corner of the garden where you can dress up as an Imperial prince or princess for $10. The fee is totally worth it, the costume is pretty legit and they even do your hair for you and put that headpiece on. I have really thick hair so I’m always impressed when people are able to manage it so well… We had the option of choosing what color we wanted, and they efficiently dressed us up, gave us props (a fan for me and a sword for Kevin), put on finishing accessories (necklaces), and sat us down on the bench for pictures. Since it was just the two of us and we both decided to dress up, a lady even came out of the costume shop to take pictures of the both of us outside for us.
We then had unlimited time to frolic around the garden in our new garb and take our own pictures. We saw a lot of people take advantage of the costume shop and it was fun taking pictures with 12 other imperial princesses 😉 Though by the way, when I went home and showed my Chinese mother my pictures, she commented that my headpiece indicated that I was neither a queen nor a princess… probably one of the waiting ladies. 😦 Crycrycry. Even when I dress up I’m not royalty…
We spent way more time at the garden than we originally planned to, because we had so much fun in our costumes. Well, I did. Kevin kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m doing this…”
When we got back to the costume shop, it was empty, so the man there switched our headpieces so we could take more pictures, which was really nice of them! TOTALLY worth $10!
Hahahahahahhahhahhaa. By the way, the people there told us that the man/king is always on the left. I don’t know why that is, is it some tradition? I should look into it. Anyways, I have a feeling that some of our derpy pictures totally offended our ancestors today. Sorry ancestors.