helping keep hungry backpackers fed:

Friday, 20 April 2012

Epic Aussi Adventure: Sydney and Around

Today's Scenery:
The Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Today's Travelling Track
MGMT- Weekend Wars

Here’s the thing about Sydney, and I’m not saying I don’t like it, or didn’t enjoy my stay there, but I feel its slightly missing something. Don’t ask me what or how this could be changed, but there’s a definite lack of the je ne sais quoi that makes my favourite cities feel different, special and generally nice places to be. Maybe it’s the age of the place, or the sheer number of tourists and backpackers compared to full-blooded Sydneysiders. Whatever it is I found I was looking for something more during my whole stay. Despite this I had a great time there and spent a good few days wondering around its streets, parks, malls, gardens and shops. The following are some of my highlights

1. Chinatown: Sydney’s Chinatown is probably the best I’ve visited, although it has grown into more of an Asiatown with restaurants of every cuisine you could imagine from the continent. Myself and the BF spent decent chunks of two different days meandering around its streets looking at the culinary delights on offer. As backpackers our favourite place was the food court in the mall above paddy’s market; almost a microcosm of the streets around it offered sushi bars, Thai noodle carts, yum cha and dim sum and everything else under the (land of the rising) sun. All the food we sampled there came in huge portions and was tasty and reasonably priced. A lot of Chinatowns are rundown streets in the bad end of town, but here in Sydney it’s an affluent area full of life and colour. It’s nice to see and almost gives you a feel for what classier districts of Asian cities might be like.
Cool statue we saw on tour

 2. Free walking tour: For the first time in Australia we managed to find a free city walking tour. Whilst backpacking around Europe, free tours like this one had been our favourite pastime and were generally the first thing we would do in any city. Sydney’s offering took us around all of the walkable sights, although it lacked kooky fun elements of tours we took elsewhere; in Berlin our tour guide was an opera enthusiast, and treated us to a rendition of one of his favourite songs outside the venue which was hosting a performance of the play from which it came that evening; in Prague our slightly mental Czech guide told us stories of ghosts who wander the city streets and took us to a piece of modern art which was a mechanical representation of a man peeing. If you text a certain number your message would be spelt out by his urine stream. Despite no urinating statues, or opera renditions the tour gave us some great photo opportunities and helped us to get our bearings for the rest of our stay
Old Skool rides at Luna Parl
3. Self-directed wandering. The BF and I try and use public transport as little as possible. We had a couple of days in Sydney where we just walked with some vague eventual goals and points of interest along the way. We walked from kings cross to the fish market. We were too late for the auctions themselves and yet too early for lunch so we had an oyster each and returned to the city, passing the lovely Darling Harbour area. On another occasion we walked from our hostel into Woolloomooloo and then around the bay into the botanic gardens, after exploring them for a while we headed to the opera house, and then decided to just do the whole tourist route and traversed the Harbour Bridge. We visited Luna Park which felt like a slice of 50s seaside entertainment aside from all the One Direction merchandise everywhere (we think they were playing a gig there that night.) It is the opportunity for this aimless meandering which is the most enjoyable aspect of stops in cities and it makes me sad how many people miss out by taking busses and trains everywhere.

4. The Royal Easter Show: ever since I arrived in Australia the BF has been telling me that I HAVE TO go to a show. It seems these shows are the highlight of any Australian child’s year. The Sydney Royal Easter Show is the biggest of these shows, which seem to have originated as an agricultural event designed for showing your best animals and developed into a crazy mixture of Carnival, food festival, Outback performance and children’s toy shop. Show bags seem to be a large focus; these are packs of merchandise put together by a startling array of companies and sold for extortionate amounts. They’re sold in show bag halls, where kids run riot trying to decide which is the best combination of bags to buy to ensure the most chocolate and yet also the coolest toys and gadgets. We walked through arts and craft tents showing off the countries best photographers, sculptors, cake decorators, embroiderers and everything else imaginable. We filled up on free samples in the gourmet food tents and watched a particularly bizarre wood chopping competition. 
In the largest stadium the evening’s entertainment included rodeo, country music, motocross (unfortunately cancelled due to rain) and finally an amazing fireworks display, set to aboriginal music and complimented by lasers. It was a pretty cool day, but I left just wondering how much money the average Australian family would spend at such a show, especially considering the number of pricey show bags dangling from the back of each pushchair and up the length of each mother’s arms.

Bondi Beach
5. The beaches: On one afternoon whilst in Sydney we took the famous Manly Ferry from central quay to the buzzing suburb of Manly. We had been told that half of the fun of visiting was the journey, as the ferry offers views to rival all the luxury bay cruises operating around the area for a fraction of the price. True to form, we found Manly itself busy and unoriginal. Bondi Beach, on the other hand, pleasantly surprised us and despite a cold snap which had arrived overnight, we explored some costal walkways and then enjoyed some food and drink in one of a plethora of cool, gourmet cafes. In fact the BF and I both agreed that it was the only area of Sydney that we could actually see ourselves being able to happily spend an extended amount of time in.

6. The Blue Mountains: on leaving Sydney we headed to the Blue Mountains and spent a couple of days there. Despite the suddenly arctic temperatures (it was getting down to 5 degrees at night) we had a fantastic time and enjoyed a very long and somewhat challenging hike down a steep staircase under the three sisters and around the valley below. Later on that day we went mountain biking around some fire trails and awoke the next morning very sore and tired. The natural beauty of this area makes it a great city break, although we found it slightly touristy around the three sisters themselves, where parking costs were even steeper than in Sydney’s CBD.
The Three Sisters
Our experience in Sydney was also marred by a couple of minor details. Firstly we were there over the public holiday of Easter and staying in Kings Cross we found the area almost intimidatingly busy, this made driving around and parking very difficult and deterred us from visiting any of the bars, clubs or nightclubs in the area (the term meat market can be accurately applied to the streets of king’s cross on a weekend) Secondly the staff at our hostel, whilst very nice and friendly, were lacking in organisational skills and didn’t have much knowledge of the area. When we signed up for a pub crawl on the Monday it was cancelled due to lack of promotion and no one thought to let us know that it wasn’t going ahead. A lot of our fellow guests were staying at the hostel long term and didn’t seem interested in meeting new people or making us feel welcome. Nonetheless we did enjoy our stay and came away with some great memories, and even better photos!

Turk Visits....Bathurst Race Track
Turk lived out a lifetime dream of racing around Mount Panorama in Bathurst!

No comments:

Post a Comment