So we finally got our Australian visa. Now what?
It took us a few days to let the whole visa thing sink in. Then I went back to researching and reading our visa grant letter. There I found a notation that we have to do the initial entry before 27 January 2015. We got the grant on July 2014. That means we only have 6 months to fly out and do the initial entry.
What is an initial entry then? To put it in simple logic, its basically to activate your visa. I’m not entirely sure, but that’s how I understand it. All I’m sure of is that the date we are required to enter Australia is the same date that our Philippine NBI clearance expires.
So, we decided to do the initial entry as its more practical compared to doing the big move right away. Scoured the internet for the cheapest ticket and started planning.
Entry point was in Sydney since my sister’s family lives there. We went in September which means winter is slowly saying goodbye and spring is creeping in. For somebody who came from the desert summer the temperature was still cold. And a welcome relief. By the way, we no longer have a visa stamp on our passports as Australian Immigration have stopped doing that. The passport is enough as your details are connected in their system once you arrive in the country. Still best to bring a printed copy of your visa grant in case they need a proof.
Our initial entry was quick and packed with so much activities. We celebrated my niece’s birthday and met new friends. Did the obligatory tourist activities like visited Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House and Watson’s Bay.
On one of the weekends we went to Canberra to visit Snowy Mountain. Being born and raised in a tropical country seeing snow is as exciting as Christmas morning (yes, its almost the same feeling!). We left Sydney early in the morning to take the train to Canberra. It was a 4.5-hour train ride. Luckily, I slept almost the entire time. We arrived in Canberra around noon. Checked in to our hotel and visited Floriade.
Floriade is an annual flower festival in Canberra where it showcases beautiful designs decorated with flowers. There’s a lot of things to do there aside from enjoying endless blooms of different floral varieties. There are concerts and kid’s activities to fill up your day.
The next day, we drove to Snowy Mountain. It was a 2-hour drive filled with tantrums by bored kids in the car and tons of road kills along the highway. It was an adventure. Since it was already September, not much snow in the area. But we still get to do toboggan and made a mini snow man. That was the first time I’ve touched snow. it was not what I have expected. I’ve always thought it would feel like sand. Cold sand for that matter. But its just ice. more like shaved ice. We didn’t stay long in Thredbo as we have to catch the train back to Sydney in the evening.
On our last weekend in Sydney, we took a long drive and went to Hunter Valley. It was also a 2-hour drive with endless vineyards as your view. Hunter Valley is known to house most of the famous wineries in the region. So what better way to discover the place then? Vineyard hopping of course! Each vineyard/ winery have their own specialty of wine some pair it with some delectable cheeses and some with luscious chocolates. It is just pure heaven. Just be careful though, a designated driver should never touch any tasting glass.
Our two weeks in Sydney zoomed by so quickly. It was nice experiencing new things and eating pork in almost all shops /restaurants. On our plane ride going back to Abu Dhabi, I finally get to asked my husband this – “So, Australia, what do you think?”