We survived the long 15h bus drive from Gold Coast to the Sydney yesterday. We arrived to Sydney little before 8 am and had hours to spend till 3pm when we had check in in a hotel in the city. We chose the hotel in the city because we have something planned for tomorrow and we need to be in the city center before 7am.
In the morning we explored city center on foot a bit more, went to see the big market/mall house and after reading much recommendations decided to go to lunch on fish market. Spoiler alert it was crap and not worth either the time nor money.
In the afternoon we met with Veronika’s relatives who brought us luggage we left in their house for our backpacking tour of the north. After that we took a quick nap. Despite sleeping quite a lot during our drive in the night we were still very tired, I guess bus chairs and tons of interruptions due to stops don’t make for a good sleeping conditions.
In the evening we went for a long walk to the botanical gardens and saw opera and harbour bridge again. Today is our last night in Australia during this trip. We are quite sad it had ended already, but frankly don’t have much time to think about it since we are rushing to prepare our suitcases for tomorrow when at 3PM we will leave Australia.
One of the main reasons, probably the only one, why I came to Australia at this time was the IJCAI conference. Again I was lucky enough to have had a paper accepted to one of the workshops that are included in the conference.
The workshops have started on Saturday this week and I’ve been going to lectures and presentations since. It’s quite rough, I usually have to wake up around 7 AM to be at the conference at around 8 AM and we don’t finish before 6 PM, sometimes even later. This was especially hard during the first few days when I had full effects of jet lag. I almost fell asleep few times during the afternoon and despite going to sleep early, I usually got really tired afternoon. For some unexplained reason I also woke up sometime in the middle of night for no apparent reason, luckily I was able to fall asleep soon after.
I had my first presentation on Sunday. I was presenting a paper my colleges wrote, but were unable to come here, JSI Sound – paper about sound classification.
During the Saturday and Sunday the conference was held at the University of Melbourne and wow, I haven’t seen more beautiful building yet. It can’t be more than 5 years old, it’s full of LEDs everywhere, strange shapes and stairways like Hogwarts. Must be really cool to study at such cool university.
On Monday we moved to the Melbourne convention center, that is just across the river from our hotel. In the afternoon I was presenting my paper Intelligent Assistant Carer for Active Ageing at BOOM workshop. Somehow we were lucky enough to have won: best paper award. It’s great thing and will look good in my CV, although I don’t think it will further my PhD research anytime soon.
In the evening we had reception at the cricket stadium nearby. It was without doubt my best day in Australia yet. We had some great food, drinks and native Aborigine playing didgeridoo. But the best part was … they brought some native Australian animals to the reception. This included koala, kangaroo, dingo, snake and some lizard. I was even more surprised when I was able to pet the dingo a bit, not only that but I was able to feed him some meat his trainer gave me. The evening only continue to get better as I was able to scratch baby kangaroo behind his ears. His fur was surprisingly soft, like touching a cloud.
Beside kangaroo there was also a Koala bear eating a bag of eucalyptus. Whole area smelt of it.
On Tuesday the real conference started. We started at 7.45 with introduction talk and welcome by some aboriginal representative. There are I would guess around 2 thousand attendees at the conference listening to around 600 papers that were submitted. Everything runs in parallel in 7-10 rooms and sadly every other presentation is done by some Chinese guy with almost impossible to understand accent. It is mentally exhausting trying to focus on problems they are presenting and the bad language doesn’t help at all. At the end of the day I can barely think or walk. Yesterday I fell asleep as soon as I came home, 8PM and slept until 7AM next day.
I was looking quite long to find this hotel a month ago, but I am happy I did so. The hotel is located just at the age of the city center and the entrance to the new commercial zone. Most importantly it’s just by the park named Batman. 🙂
We are located on the 24th floor, which gives us relatively good view to both north and east of the city. Sadly in a corner there is next building quite close by so the view isn’t perfect.
The room is large and includes fully functional kitchen, which comes in really handy if you want to save a buck or two and rather eat pasta smuggled from Slovenia instead of going out for a lunch/dinner which usually costs more than 30€.
The bathroom is small but also includes washing and drying machine, which will come real handy down the week.
In Abu Dhabi we boarded a gigantic Airbus 380 – the largest passenger plane in the world. It has two floors and 3-4-3 seats per row. Luckily the plane was not fully booked so Veronika and I had a free sit by the window. Sadly we were seated in the middle of the wing, which was so huge it was impossible to past it to the ground.
The flight was calm yet very very long. I don’t know what’s with me and log flights this was the 3rd time in the row where I got really sea sick at the end of last flight – and this was despite me taking 2 pills against sea sickens. Anyway after 13 hours in the air we finally landed.
After quite thorough customs check, and after they determined we didn’t bring any diseases, foreign seeds, tuna fish and other meats they let us enter Australia. Oh and I almost forgot, the first customs’ office we encountered after entering the airport, not only knew where Slovenia is, but was here multiple times on visits. 🙂
After leaving the airport in shorts and t-shirt we were greeted by a cold wintry air of Australia. It must have been funny seeing me buying bus tickets outside in the open in shorts on one side and the seller wearing winter jacket, hat and gloves on the other.
The drive from the airport took about 30 minutes and then 5 more minutes walk to our hotel. We soon checked-in and went to our room at 24th floor. The apartment is nice, but more on this later, the only thing wrong is it’s actually quite cold in here. I guess everything here is build for hot summers.