Valentine's Day // My brother, good food, fun, and the Lunar Markets

Valentine's Day? Also the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Sydney.

So, what to do? A single bachelorette like myself with an eager brother who I've been away from for a time of 1.5 months -- of course this calls for some brother/sister bonding time!

After arriving in the city and being turned away from Aqua S because it wasn't open at 11:10AM in the morning, we decided to eat at Ippudo for brunch to pass some time.

Saturday morning, just past 11am.
There weren't a lot of people; it was the least-full I've seen the restaurant (most times there's nearly always a queue outside of it).
Ippudo, ahhh, my favourite Japanese restaurant (legit). My brother had never been, so I thought I'd grace him with the experience.

And I call it a experience because it really is one. With the loud cheers from the chefs, waitresses and waitors, that accompany you as you enter the restaurant, you can't help but feel like you really are welcome here.

How they manage to cheer so loudly for each and every customer with so much enthusiasm is beyond my understanding, but they really do approach you with such BIG smiles. It's incredibly comforting.

Not to mention that they all speak fluent Japanese -- you rarely come across Japanese restaurants with employees that actually speak fluent Japanese. It surely means something about an authentic cultural experience.

So, with only 1.5 people (my brother and I surely don't count as two people), we ordered a bowl of ramen and some fried chicken.

Ippudo karaage chicken
I love the chicken here. It's such a nice balance of sauce, salad, and well-done chicken. My brother even expressed his love for it: "It's like KFC, but heaps better!". The price is also decent, at three pieces for $4, or 5 for $7.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the soft-shell crab on the menu, which I really like as well, so we passed.

We ordered a bowl of ramen to share; the original one (Shiromaru motoaji). They're decently priced as well, at only $15 for such a filling bowl (which we shared between the both of us).

Also posted this picture on instagram for a free pork bun voucher hehe
Yum yum.

I really like Ippudo, and they're opening one at Macquarie Centre, so super keen to try that out someday!

Anyway, we found ourselves leaving Ippudo in Westfield at 12pm, and so made a bee-line to Aqua S near Town Hall.

I've been a fair few times, and as much as the hype has died down since its initial booming launch (it was a huge thing just a few weeks ago), I'm not going to lie, I do like their ice-cream. It's really smooth, and it's also a large serving (if you don't get the toppings; I highly recommend no toppings because it really is a massive price to pay. $1.50 just for a few pieces of popcorn? What?!).

I was also itching to try out the Strawberry Cheesecake flavour (up till this point I've only tested out Sea Salt and Salted Dark Chocolate).

My brother, since he'd never tried the salted flavours, gave it a shot. This also gave an excuse to get him the topping as well, since it really is a unique addition.

His first time!
We both agreed we liked the strawberry cheesecake more than the salted flavours, though. (But, man, I love cheesecake in general, so I'm probably not an accurate representation. My brother also dislikes things that are simultaneously salt and sweet).

So, with more time to spare before the Lunar Markets (which opened at 4pm), we went to Darling Harbour, which is a stop my brother always loves.

On the way we stopped by to appreciate the new installations for Chinese New Year around Cockle Bay Wharf.

They're lanterns, too.

Also I wasn't aware of these but there were markets in Darling Harbour too! Selling all these little miscellaneous items.

Accurate replicas
Anyway, once our curiosities were satisfied, we spent the next two hours at the various playgrounds in Darling Harbour. We've been here several times in the past, yet each time, it's always entertaining.

It took a good (and long) few years to finish construction here; I still remember when I went there to play back in 2010 and saw the entire place closed off due to construction. It took ages for it to reopen and I was so excited for it. Not going to lie, it was a really big upgrade! And it's lasted for so long, and is still fun.

I decided to challenge my brother; I challenged him to dig to the bottom of the sandpit.
In the past, I've done this amazing feat twice in my life, pushing my childhood patience to the limit and ultimately achieving the taste of self-discipline, perseverance, and accomplishment. With sand all over me and in the depths of hard-to-clean pockets, I stood in the deep hole with so much pride that I remember the moment even today.

All this was sparked by the initial curiosity: "I wonder how deep this goes?"

My brother continued on the tradition.

Spoilers: he made it.
I was a bit tired today, so I didn't take much street photography. Also, there were heaps of people, and being the 'motherly figure' as I had to watch over my brother meant I had less of an opportunity to do some street photog.

My brother thoroughly enjoyed himself, I can assure you that. Something remarkable is how kids can find fun and joy in the most ordinary of household items. Plastic bag? Let's use it as a bucket and fill it with water, so we can use wet sand to make a stable mountain.

There was a convenient hole at the bottom of the bag which made for a hilarious picture (I couldn't stop laughing)
For my brother's birthday, I decided to test him (inspired by a YouTube video I watched a few weeks prior). I gave him a small rubber eraser car for his present, wanting to see whether he would lose his appreciation in the face of such a 'small and simple' gift, as opposed to a more substantial gift.

Before he opened the present, he gave me a hug and was full of smiles.

After he opened the wrapping to find the car, he shouted out 'YAY' and immediately started fake-driving around with the car, not even questioning the present at all.

It was remarkable.

As an adult, my understanding of kids is that they don't really know how to appreciate a gift for the fact of it being a gift from someone to you. I suppose I assumed that most children (especially spoiled ones), including my brother, wouldn't be able to understand that 'it's the thought that counts' -- the Veruca Salts of the real world, so to speak.

But I was surprised. I actually started laughing, and had to interrupt my brother as he dove into his imagination with this tiny car and tell him that his 'real' present was lying in the other room. A part of me wanted to actually leave it at the car, since he really seemed to genuinely love it so much.

Anyway, the point is that kids seem to find so much wonder in the smallest of things. Objects that we, as adults, seem to pass by without so much as a thought, can offer so much to a child with a sense of imagination. Somehow along the years of growing up and high-school, it left us (though, I like to say that it merely went into hiding, and is just waiting to emerge again).

Anyway, anecdote over. On with the story.

Teamwork at its finest.

A bit more fun in the sand, and it was time to clean ourselves up and walk over to Pyrmont for the Lunar Markets.

On the way there, we crossed a intersection. I saw a blind man on the opposite side, struggling to cross the road, and my heart almost did a leap for joy when I saw another man go out of his way to assist him. Not only did he approach him and talk to him, he extended his hand and actually walked the man across the road.

The sight of that made my heart melt (not literally) and it left me with such a broad smile on my face. I was so happy at that moment for humanity that I kind of wanted to cry; it was such a nice moment! Had to mention it.

Throughout the day I was also consistently reminded of my ambition to one day do my own Valentine's Act of Kindness. I planned to go out and give roses to those who don't have the luxury to relax and spend time with their loved ones on a Valentine's day. Things like people who work on the day, emergency service people, security officers at the Lunar Markets, etc., and in general people that should have something nice happen to them on that day. Or, rather, on any day -- not necessarily Valentine's.

Valentine's interactive installation in Darling Harbour

I suppose money and time is always an issue, though. But I plan to do it one day.

Anyway, we arrive at the markets! (Such a long tangent; my apologies)

It was a quaint little thing.

It wasn't as big as I anticipated, though I think still worth the visit (especially as a student who has yet to start Uni with nothing else to do. If you have other things to do, then perhaps not worth it). But, who knows? Maybe in the future it'll grow to be a bigger community event!

Funnily enough, a lot of the food wasn't of Chinese cuisine, even though this was technically an event for Chinese New Year.

So, my brother and I consumed several food-stuffs that weren't actually Chinese in culture. I suppose the reason for that was because we have good Chinese food quite frequently, so we passed this time.

Chicken and Pork kebab; these tasted really good, though they were kind of exy at two for $10.

Been wanting to eat one of these for a while, so my wallet opened up and I forked out $6 for it. It was a nice potato though.
Something which was super nice was The Star's installation of cherry blossom trees (not real ones) with free red pockets hung on them. Each red pocket was filled with two chocolate money coins, which although not much, was a nice addition (and free!)

Also picture worthy!
With our time quickly exhausted out (I had somewhere to be later that night) and the entirety of the markets essentially scoped out within the hour, we decided to make a slow return-trip back to the city to go home.

On our way, we stopped by for some more snacks to consume as we left.

More kebabs, yes. (different store this time though)

On the way back (on the bus), I also witnessed a group of young teenage boys (no older than fourteen, surely) all stand up for a middle-old aged couple, and insist they sit (despite the man's initial polite refusal). It made me smile, too. The day was a good one.

Though a day of a lot of spending, my brother really enjoyed it. He said he loved the day, had a lot of fun, and liked the food (his favourite part of the day was ironically the cheapest part -- just relaxing in Darling Harbour. Well, that says something.) As long as he enjoyed the day out, then it was worth it. (I wish the food was cheaper, though.)

It was a good day out. I miss spending time with my brother, and with Uni bombarding in to sweep my time away, and my brother quickly growing up and facing OC and Selective School exams in the next two years, let's just say I'm not anticipating the busy-ness that will accompany it.

But, for now, the Lunar Markets was a nice day out.

Nice vibe


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Hello! I'm a student from Australia. I like photography, am aspiring to be a Doctor, have fallen in love with many things that life has to offer, and hope to see more of it. I've been blogging for a while and over the years what it means to me has changed. Currently still trying to figure that out, but here I am in a weird hybridisation of photography, film, blogging, and the confusion of a young adult, you'll find me here writing about my experiences and life. Or whatever tickles my fancy. Whether that's entertaining or not is yours to decide. Stay hydrated, kids.