Counting Down to The New Year: A Malaysian’s Magical Experience in Sydney

As the year comes to an end, most of us look to usher in the new year with a bang. One of the things I suppose most of us look forward to every year are the extravagant fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. While some of us are content with watching the fireworks on our screens, I can confirm that being on-site for the live show is usually more fun and thrilling! Imagine the flashing lights in the sky, the loud bangs, and the collective countdown to the new beginning with the crowd! Last year, I did exactly that in Sydney, Australia. 

Before we dive right into the story, it’s important to know that Sydney’s NYE Fireworks is one of the biggest displays in the world. It takes the organizers about many, many months to prepare, so one can expect an awe-inspiring affair, with plenty of revellers crowding the site for a better look. Even though it was just to watch a fireworks display I had to ask a number of my friends about their experiences and do plenty of research before my own trip. And, yes, I’d recommend you do the same too, lest you miss out on some of the fun stuff.

So this was how everything went down when I attended the fireworks display last year.

14 hours before midnight

I arrived at Bradfield Park (right under the iconic Harbour Bridge) at about 10:00 a.m. That’s where you can get a clear view of the Opera House and the Bridge. I thought I was early, but there were already crowds of people setting up tents and picnic mats around the best vantage points. So, I had to settle for whatever empty spot that I could find with a decent view of the Bridge, and set up a picnic mat there with a friend while waiting for other friends to join us later in the day. 

But because I rushed out in the morning, I forgot to bring some important items, such as umbrellas, raincoats, bottles of water, board games, and snacks. They may seem trivial now, but they would have gone a long way in helping pass the time.

11 hours before midnight

My friend and I finished our lunch at about 1:00 p.m. And yes, we had Macca’s takeaway (which is what Australians call McDonald’s). To put it bluntly, it was getting really hot with the sun beating down from above. And because I’d forgotten to bring umbrellas and we didn’t have a tent, we had to bear the brunt of the heat of the unforgiving sun. Don’t make the same mistakes we did! 

Since it was getting unbearable, we decided to abandon our spot, and move to another location with more shade. We figured that as we get closer to midnight, everyone would be standing to watch the fireworks anyway, so it doesn’t really matter where we camped out for the day, as long as we remained within the park. 

6 hours before midnight

Things took a turn for the worse. Not that I didn’t anticipate it, but I forgot my counter-measures, which were the umbrellas and the raincoats. Basically, it suddenly started pouring, and there was nowhere for us to take cover. The only thing I could do at this point was to use the reusable grocery bag to cover my backpack while I braved through the storm.  It was hot in the afternoon, but now it was freezing cold. What a lovely climate!

3 hours before midnight

More of our friends had just finished work, and started joining us a few hours before the fireworks display. Thankfully, they brought a lot of snacks, because at this point, I was starving. Sure,  there were a few stalls set up in the park selling street foods like sausages, sandwiches, wings, and chips. But I’d already gotten sick of them having eaten them the whole day. 

Coincidentally, there were two other Malaysians who were sitting right beside us. But they weren’t students like us. From our brief conversations, we found out that they travelled to Sydney every year for their holidays, and this time, they wanted to catch the fireworks display. They ended up joining us and we became fast friends!

A smaller scale fireworks display had just begun. Consider it a warm up before the main event, and from what I was told, it was meant for those who could not stay awake until midnight. For avid photographers, this would be the best time to test your camera settings, so you won’t miss out during the main event. 

There were also decorated boats gliding across the water. With the Opera House as the main backdrop, this was quite a picturesque moment. 

1 hour before midnight

As expected, the crowd at this point was really dense, and having personal space became quite the luxury. Everyone had stored their belongings and tents and folded up their picnic mats to create even more space for other revellers so that everyone could have a good time. 

10 seconds before midnight

“Ten! Nine! Eight!” 

The countdown begins! The moment everyone had been waiting for since morning. The moment the organizers have been spending 15 months for. This is it!

“Seven! Six! Five! Four!”

The countdown gets louder. I get goosebumps, either from the intense atmosphere around me, or from the damp T-shirt from the rain earlier. No matter!

“Two! One! Happy New Year!!” 

As if on cue, tons of colourful sparks fly from the Bridge and the boats, until you can barely see the Bridge anymore. The once dark sky is filled with bright lights of every colour from the rainbow. Everyone is cheering. It was surreal. Words cannot do this moment justice. Not even pictures.

1 hour after midnight

As much fun as the fireworks were, now comes another tough part of New Year’s Eve in Sydney: going home. As I mentioned earlier, there were thousands of people who flocked to the same location for the same event. Naturally, most also left at the exact same time. Packed buses and trains are to be expected. Thankfully, the city arranges for more frequent buses and trains during the festivities in anticipation of this, so getting home wasn’t as rough as I thought it would be.

So that was how everything went down for my Sydney NYE fireworks experience. Was it tiresome? Oh, very. I was quite surprised I could still get to work the next day. Was it a lot of fun? So much! Will I do it again? Probably not. At least not in the same manner. But I’m glad that I did it at least once in my life. It’s definitely something everyone should do at least once. It’s an experience like no other. 

If you’re keen on attending the NYE fireworks display in Sydney, you should totally do it. But from my experience, you should make some preparations in advance. Here is a simple checklist that you can refer to:

  1. Always, always do some research before going. The sooner the better. Ask any of your friends who have been there. Check for the several best spots for unobstructed views of the fireworks. Check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly. Check if you need to drive, or if you can rely on public transport to get to your location.
  2. Check the event itinerary if there’s any. That way you can make sure you get the best bits from the whole event. 
  3. Get to the locations early. If you think you’ve found the best spots, chances are a lot of other people are thinking the same. How early depends on where you are watching the fireworks. Sydney is quite an extreme example of getting there super early, but not all places will have the same amount of people. Therefore, research!
  4. Bring all of your necessary items. Snacks, water, books, board games, power banks, umbrellas, etc. They can make all the difference. Also, drag your friends along. You can take turns in ‘guarding’ your spot, and they can help bring food for you. 
  5. Don’t litter! Be a responsible attendee and keep the place clean. Create a welcoming environment for everyone around you, and a clean start for the new year. 

Last but not least, have fun. The memories you create from this one night alone will be priceless. Now go out there, and end the year with a bang!

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