I am a world traveller & a mom of two, (8 & 6). I love to meet people, and am fascinated that there are 7 billion stories out there to be explored. I think Melbourne is the most happening city to live in with all the fun activities around town.
Published January 14th 2015
Warning: You may never want to leave this Garden again
On a recent visit to Sydney, I had the unique opportunity to visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship located at the popular tourist destination, Darling Harbour. It may be a less known fact that the location of the garden is close to the already established Chinatown, rich in Chinese heritage and culture.
Panoramic View of the Chinese Garden of Friendship
As I walked in, little did I know that a piece of heaven awaited me behind the orange gates guarded by two statues of lions (representing yin and yang) that carry out their duty of guarding and protecting day in day out. The Garden of Friendship, officially opened in 1988 as part of Sydney's bicentennial celebrations, were thus named as a symbol of the bond established between China and Australia. The approximately one hectare Garden was designed by Sydney's Chinese sister city, Guangzhou.
Entrance to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, located at the South end of Darling Harbour
There are many reasons for visiting the Garden of Friendship for locals as well as tourists. Here are a few reasons I have suggested after visiting the garden for the first (and only) time:
1. Piece of Heaven As I said earlier, it is hard to believe that taking a few steps into the Garden can transport you thousands of miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets and flocks of tourists and locals enjoying Darling Harbour. The greenery of the plants, the soothing lake, chirping birds, and other sounds of nature surround the visitor with a sense of instant tranquility. The sights are calming to all the senses and it is not a bad idea to sit down and take it all in.
A Little Piece of Heaven in the heart of Sydney CBD
2. Landscaping The moment you step into the Garden, you know that you are seeing something truly special and unique. The way the Garden is designed is in the traditional Chinese style. Among the many pavilions and sections you walk through, it is most interesting to explore the nooks and crannies and find something that is sure to surprise you. The central lagoon even boasts its very own waterfalls. One of the interesting features of the gardens is that you can not see the entire garden from any point within them.
3. Flora Each and every plant, tree, flower, bush and grass blade appears to be hand-picked for this stunning Garden. Towering weeping willows sway to and fro in the breeze. Flowering plants keep the Garden colourful and inviting. The central lagoon with lotus plants adds to the ambiance. Traditional bonsai plants give it the specific character. There is so much to learn and discover as you walk through the Garden about the plants that have made this place their home.
4. Fauna It is only natural that a place like the Garden of Friendship will attract local wildlife. I spotted a water dragon, happily basking in the sun. Koi carp live in the serenity of the lagoon. Birds chirp around and contribute to the beauty of the Garden. Who knows what other magical and mystical creatures live in the secret hideouts that the garden lovingly offers to all who wish to visit.
5. Architecture and art The Garden was designed by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners based on the Taoist principles of 'Yin-Yang' and the five opposite elements—earth, fire, water, metal and wood. These principles also stress the importance of Qi, the central force of life and energy. As you walk into the main pavilion of the Garden, the eyes automatically turn towards the towering pagoda as the focal feature of the Garden. However, getting to the pagoda itself requires you to walk through or over several other beautiful architectural features. Chinese style wall features, lamps, sculptures, paintings and other structures magnify the charm of these Gardens.
The key features to look out for are the Courtyard of Welcoming Fragrance, Dragon Wall, Water Pavilion of Lotus Fragrance, Twin Pavilion, The Gurr, Rock Forest, and the garden's penjing collection (Chinese bonsai).
6. Special Events The Garden is host to many special events throughout the course of the year, which attract adults and children. Special days like Mini Market Garden, Children's Workshop, Lion Dance, Dress up day, and so much more fill up the calendar, but the most remarkable of all is the celebration of the Chinese New Year, when the Chinese Garden provides the traditional backdrop for this very special occasion.
One visit, and I guarantee you will long to visit again. The Garden of Friendship is an excellent way to get a glimpse into the rich symbolic culture of the Chinese traditions. Stating the obvious, the garden is an exquisite place for avid photographers, and makesan idyllic backdrop for special occasion photography such as weddings, etc. It is worth mentioning that the Teahouse serves Chinese tea and dim sum to die for.
Keep at least two hours for a leisurely stroll and give yourself plenty of opportunities to stop, sit, take it all in and appreciate the love that has gone into the making of the Garden.
There are toilets and baby change facilities in the Garden. A 45-minute self-guided audio tour is available in English and Mandarin (additional $4). The lower Garden is accessible by wheelchair and pram (the stairs and rocky paths can make the upper Garden difficult to access).