What do I know about Sydney? Not a thing.
After landing in, I gathered my bags and used my Opal card the nameless backpacker gave me in Fiji and embarked on a short train ride from the Sydney International Airport to the CBD (Central Business District) area of the city. As I began my fresh first steps onto the lit streets of the busy Sydney populous and scoped out my surroundings, I thought to myself…
“Man, there are Asians everywhere!”
“Am I in China?”
“They are legit taking over this city.”
Although come to mention it, Zara did tell me that when I came to Sydney that I would basically be visiting China at the same time. She hit the nail right on the head!
I walked to my hostel where I would stay for the next couple nights to meet up with people I volunteered with in Fiji who were in Sydney on working holiday visas. The hostel I stayed at is called Nomads Sydney Backpackers Hostel aka one of the crappiest hostels I have ever stayed in. The rooms weren’t the best but they made do. It was one of the cheapest so I guess I got what I paid for. I got used to the moldy smell after a while.
I spent the first day busy with some travel “work” while exploring my surroundings including Hyde Park (named after London’s more famous Hyde Park) and the iconic, tourist infested Sydney Opera House along with literal hordes iPad welding tourists. Why do so many tourists opt to use a clunky iPad or any other tablet as their go-to for photos?
I ended up sneaking up near the higher levels of the Opera House, past the blockades and up the stairs, realizing after the fact that I could have gotten in big trouble. I simply just wanted to see it.
Back in my smelly hostel dorm, I met a French backpacker by the name of Briac who had his bed right under mine. He was here traveling going up the coast as I was making my way down. He told me of an olympic sized swimming pool right underneath the Sydney bridge we could swim in. It has great views of the harbor and the city scape. Count me in!
We walked all the way from the center, across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the longest steel bridge in the world, which took about twenty minutes to cross on foot.
Just to the side, directly next to Luna Park, is not one, but two olympic-size swimming pools that cost just a few dollars to enter. One of the pools was indoor, the other was outdoor. We chose the outdoor pool which gave us some pretty cool views of Sydney at its best.
Briac’s time in Sydney was short-lived. He made his way northbound via train the next day. It was all good though because I had other people I needed to visit. One of them was Nakul whom I met during my second venture into Vietnam back in October 2014. He’s currently studying in his medical field in one of the universities (I can’t remember which one it was) near King’s Cross. We met up at a Japanese restaurant called DonDon and where we brought each other up to speed and what we’ve been up to. He was in the middle of exam week and had to get back to his studies before we parted ways once more. He did suggest that I meet his girlfriend Latha, who I have heard so much about, when I get down to Melbourne. I told him I would for sure.
Next on my ridiculously long list of people in Australia I needed to visit was my friend and former student Duc. I also met him in Vietnam but as my college student in June 2013, then as his teacher assistant at the same college a year later. He was now living in Sydney with his newlywed wife helping to run a Vietnamese restaurant called So 9. He’s one of the main chefs and when I went to his restaurant, he personally prepared me two of my most favorite Vietnamese dishes: phở and bánh mì.
I haven’t had great Vietnamese since I was in Vietnam two years ago. This is simply the best meal I have had in a long time. I LOVE Vietnamese food! Minus all the seafood parts of course.
Duc works nearly everyday, working long hours in order to eventually get permanent residency in Sydney. Before we parted ways once more, I made sure to visit his restaurant one more time the following day because I HAD to get some more phở in my belly.
Next up was a friend I haven’t seen or heard from since I met her in Kenya in July 2012. Her name is Damaris. She’s been off of Facebook (my main avenue for keeping in touch with most of my international allies) but noticed on my Instagram account that I was in Sydney and invited me out to dinner. She was an unexpected surprise, but I was happy to meet up with her. She and her boyfriend picked me up from my hostel and we drove to Bondai Beach where they treated me to dinner. Even though I haven’t heard from her for more than four years, chatting with her again felt completely natural as if I just saw her in Africa again yesterday. It happens more often than not with travelers I reunite with that I haven’t spoken to in a while. This was no exception. She’s doing great, by the way.
The remainder of my Sydney cohorts, except for one that I ‘WILL’ tell you about later, all came here as former volunteers from Fiji that I just met fairly recently. And all of them were here on working holiday visas. Josh from England, Timo from Germany, and Phoebe from a little island off of mainland England called Guernsey. I never heard of it either.
Josh and I shared a hostel and hung out quite a bit. He was busy searching for a bartending job, Phoebe was here visiting family on Manly Island before landing a retail job, and Timo somehow scored himself a job at the Sydney Opera House which is unheard of.
It was great seeing them. I literally just lived with them back in Fiji just a couple of weeks ago, so that was cool, but I was ready to get out of the hostel. I couldn’t get a “real” sense of Sydney because tourists ran the city. Maybe that IS what Sydney is? So to get a better feel, I went to go live with a live-action Sydneysider for a few days. He’s a very good friend of mine by the name of Will.
He would become my personal tour guide over the next few days to show me the outer bounds of what Sydney has to offer.
Let’s go Will!