Getting Down and Dirty with Sydney
I thought I’d start off this travel writing shebang with a bit about my hometown: Sydney.
I’ve made my way through almost 40 countries in the past 5 years. A handful of these countries I can say I’ve lived in, and a handful more I think I’d be more than happy living in for the rest of my life. So why do I always end up back here?
Everyone likes to complain about their city. It’s too expensive, it’s too noisy; there’s not much going on.
But the truth is, us Sydneysiders are pretty spoilt for luck.
We have the sea, national parks close-by, a mild climate and we have fresh and good quality local produce and a fairly relaxed way about things. We have the wealth and wisdom of many cultures of all parts of the world and few deeply entrenched traditions to make us resist change.
This makes us dynamic, interesting and cosmopolitan and more than just another young big city.
So if you’re thinking about doing some big city exploring on this side of the world, don’t just take my word for how marvellous it is, read on to find out…
The 5 Things You Should Know About Sydney
- Kaleidoscope of cultures
Although the centre is arguably the most hip and happening part (and almost always where you party), the richness of Sydney is in the suburbia. You can duck into The Italian Forum in Leichhardt (http://www.theitalianforum.com.au/pages/home.php) for gelato, take part in Chinese New Year celebrations in Hurstville and buy Indonesian street food outside the mosque in Zetland.
Somehow people from all corners of the globe have brought their customs, foods and religions and made a life for themselves. Coming from a migrant family myself, I think it’s humbling to be able to indulge in other people’s traditions.
I regularly attend Jewish festivities and practise Japanese soup slurping, and I’ve been to Congolese parties and entered drawing competitions as a kid at nearby Buddhist temple. I have friends from Vietnam, Norway, Sri Lanka, Italy, Malta and more and there is a lot to learn right here at home that would have taken years of travelling to learn.
So by all means go and see the Opera House, Bondi Beach and the works, but if you have a spare day I’d say plan a side trip to the suburbs.
- Cheap cheap cheap as chips
You can get a Japanese feed for $5 right in the heart of Sydney at Mappen (http://mappen.com.au). The Soda Factory (http://www.sodafactory.com.au) dishes out gourmet hotdogs for $1 every Tuesday night and most of the time there’s live music to accompany. Most restaurants in and around the universities will do a meal for $10 and the servings are sometimes enough for two. A favourite of mine is Satang Thai (https://www.zomato.com/sydney/satang-thai-takeway-chinatown), which does a pad thai that I’ve never finished in one sitting for $8.
I can safely say most bars’ happy hours involve a variation of the $5 beers, wines and house spirits deal. Otherwise ask your restaurant if it’s BYO, which means you can “bring your own” bottle of wine for a (small) corkage fee.
On the topic of affordable things, one of my favourite things to do is to have a browse at the markets. Second-hand markets are on every weekend for your perusal and there are plenty of bargains to be had!
Find Australian designer wear on the cheap after a marvellous fry-up brunch and have a nap in the grass when your feet get sore. There are cute artisan and craft stalls and places to buy burek, rice paper rolls and almond milk flat whites if you haven’t had enough food already.
If you have time, setting up a stall is also a bit of fun. For around 90 bucks a go, you can secure your very own 3×3 metre spot at Glebe Markets (http://www.glebemarkets.com.au) and Rozelle Markets (http://www.rozellemarkets.com.au). Makes for a good day under the sun and you can clear out the wardrobe/garage and save those pennies for your next trip away.
The beach is never too far
Fairly self-explanatory. Lying at the beach (after you slip slop slap) is a very good way of doing nothing but not feeling bad for doing nothing.
Keep in mind, I was told in primary school that we only need 10 minutes in the sun everyday to get enough Vitamin D. The Australian sun is STRONG and don’t think you’ll escape the burn.
I tend to recommend Manly for visitors because the ferry ride through the iconic Sydney harbour is a great opportunity for photos. The beach itself is lovely and big enough to accommodate a large swarm of people without being overrun. There are bars aplenty for when the late afternoon arrives and even an Aldi supermarket if you want to sort a picnic.
Anyone and everyone can be Australian
Finally, I enjoy the anonymity of being in Sydney. There aren’t many places as multicultural as Australia – where you can mill about and not be hassled (because nobody knows you’re a tourist).
No matter what you look like there’ll be somewhere in the world where you will stand out like a sore thumb. I can’t say I miss people yelling “chinita” wherever I walked in Mexico, just like I’m sure white tourists might not enjoy people staring/pointing/taking photos of them when they backpack Asia.
You can be big, small, tall, short, any colour of the rainbow and be quite at peace here in Australia. People might ask what your origin is, but almost everyone will respect that you are simply Australian.
I’ve thought a lot about moving away and this would definitely be something I’d consider if I was picking a country. It’s harder to assimilate when just from appearances people assume you’re a foreigner. But over here you can be sure you’ll be left in peace, or at most get a friendly g’day.