Travel Blog: Sydney so far…

Bondi Beach on the first hot day of Spring.

It’s been just over 11 weeks since I arrived from Hong Kong into Sydney, or Sydo as I like to call it.

I landed on August 8th to a colder than usual Sydney winter – according to the locals – with temperatures around 14 degrees. Not bad for winter weather, I hear you English cry! Yes, but still a bit nippy (read: bloody freezing) compared to the glorious heat of Hong Kong. Plus no one knows what central heating is in Sydney.

As any foreigner living in a new city does, I’ve made a few interesting observations…here are some of them.

1) The government of New South Wales (NSW), where Sydney is located, really doesn’t want you to smoke. Unlike in the UK where the government has spent over four years debating whether to introduce plain cigarette packaging (it will finally be introduced in 2016), the Aussie government introduced plain cigarette packaging – well, packaging with tumours and rotting feet on – in 2012. The only country worldwide to do so. If this doesn’t put you off smoking, the extortionate tax will (it costs about AUD$25 for a pack of twenty fags, nearly £12). Then, shortly before I graced Sydney with my presence, NSW government brought in a law stating that no one can smoke three meters in front of a public or commercial building. Plus, everyone inside, and almost everywhere outside, of a public house (bar) or restaurant is non-smoking. Most of the time smoking in bars in Sydo is airport style; huddled in a cramped, poorly ventilated space with other outcast smokers. I still can’t decide if I hate or admire the government for their stringent stance on smoking.

2) Sydney has a thriving gay community – I’ve never been in one place with so many homosexuals. It’s refreshing how open and unabashed gay people are in Sydney. Puts Brighton and London to shame.

3) NSW government is a bit of a party pooper. Far from being a 24 hour city, Sydney’s central business district (CBD), Bondi and Kings Cross have a 1:30am lockout law, meaning that you can’t get in anywhere for a drink after this time and you can’t leave (for a fag, for example) and re-enter somewhere after this time. The law is a (knee-jerk) reaction to two different incidences where two boys were killed by a single blow to the head. Coming from London where a man was decapitated outside the infamous Ministry of Sound night club a few years ago (just one of many such incidences) and no law was ever changed, it seems a major overreaction to punish your regular happy-go-lucky reveller for the actions of two drunken people. The law has destroyed a lot of businesses in the Kings Cross area, where I live. However, few deny that the area is much safer and more civilised than before….Also, you can’t buy alcohol from a shop after 10pm!

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Sign outside the now closed Hugo’s in Kings Cross.

4) Considering all the government’s party-pooper laws, I was surprised to discover that prostitution is legal in NSW. Brothels are brazenly open any time of the day wth signs such as the one below displayed proudly. Sometimes ladies are rolled out onto the street in g-string and porno heels to tempt perhaps shy punters.  A policeman also told me that it is legal for prostitutes to solicit sex on the street as long as they’re not on a residential street or near a school.

Sign outside a brothel in Kings Cross.
Sign outside a brothel in Kings Cross.

5) Avocado comes with everything. Yep, health conscious Sydney-syders love their ‘avo’.

6) Australian politics can be brutal – a Prime Minister can literally be ousted and replaced within 24 hours. Just ask Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott was ousted as Prime Minister of Australia on the 15th of September and replaced by Malcolm Turnball.
Tony Abbott was ousted as Prime Minister of Australia on the 15th of September and replaced by Malcolm Turnball.

7) Australian TV advertising is SHAMELESS! I’m not sure if this is influenced by American culture but in Oz’s equivalent of This Morning, Studio 10, every half an hour Jono Coleman (also known in the UK) will be rolled out for an ‘infomercial’ to ask some random person about this ‘amazing’ mop or beauty cream they are being paid to flog. Plus an episode of Friends will have THREE adverts. It used to drive me insane but now, sadly, I’m quite used it.

8) Traffic controlling is a legitimate job in Sydney. More on this later.

9) My previously held opinion that Australia has the best beaches in the world has been upheld. Forget Bondi, which is too busy and too choppy for swimming, Sydney has some amazing hidden beaches such as Shark Bay, Redleaf Bay and if you walk the 10k from Manly to Spit Bridge you’ll encounter dozens of small crystal clear practically empty beaches.

Shark Bay.
Shark Bay.

10) Happy hour genuinely makes you smile. There hours of £2.50 (AUD $5) drinks would make any Londoner ecstatic.

11) A curry wrap is a thing here. It consists of your favourite curry wrapped in naan bread – simple and effective at 1am.

12) Aussie steak is hands down way better than any I’ve had before. And it’s cheap!

Aussie steak.
Aussie steak.

13) You can swear on TV at any time of the day. Yep, Aussies aren’t prude about being profane.

14) There’s apparently more Maltese in Sydney than in Malta, which doesn’t strike me as an exaggeration. My surname, ‘Vella’, is like ‘Smith’ here. When I opened a bank account someone had the exact same first and last name as me.

Maltese Cross coaster at the guest house I stayed in the Blue Mountains.
Maltese Cross coaster at the guest house I stayed in the Blue Mountains.

15) Travel is ridiculously cheap – you can take a two-hour train journey to the Blue Mountains for the equivalent of £3.

I’d love to hear other’s insights on Sydney life – please share your thoughts in the comment box.

Also stay-tuned for more Sydney-based blogs.