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Living in Sydney – Part One

A meandering travelogue designed to point out the good bits, so you won’t have to waste your time when you get there.

I love Sydney. That should be kept in mind at all times because ultimately, I am English and thus my writing can veer towards the ironic, the deprecating, the understated. Don’t let it fool ya. Sydney is an incredible, world-class city and possibly the most beautiful and anyone who says otherwise can meet me outside.

I arrived on a Friday and was tired. On Saturday I went to a rave at Randwick Racecourse called the Future Music Festival.

randwick rave.jpg

Australia is still in love with rave in a way rarely seen nowadays in the cynical old UK. They also have the highest per capita ecstasy consumption of anywhere in the world, despite pills being very expensive indeed. 

These facts may or may not be related but raves are pretty good out there. People make an effort. Also worth checking out are raves out in the bush. Similar to the trance parties that have become     endemic wherever hippies congregate, in Australia they are called Duffs, because the music goes duff duff duff. Brutal simplicity of thought that.

That night was also Mardi Gras. Now, I’ve not said it yet but I will almost certainly say it again, Sydney is the gayest city in the world. But not gay in the pejorative, as it has apparently become in the UK’s youth vernacular, but gay in its second semantic incarnation of proudly homosexual. There are plenty of pictures at the official site:

Oxford Street is the throbbing gay heart of Sydney and primary route for the parade.

 oxford st.jpg

The next one is on the 3rd of March 2007.  You should go. It’s pretty and everyone get really wrecked. Bizarrely, many Sidneysiders don’t go so you’ll meet loads of tourists. 

viagra.jpgIt’s fairly common to see packs of Viagra on the ground in Sydney, but there are loads after Mardi Gras.






Obviously events are time specific. So I can’t help you out there but check out this website and sign up for their newsletter and you will be as informed as the coolest, most culturally aware Sydneysider.


[Cultural Note: Residents of Sydney refer to themselves as Sydneysiders. They refer to people from Melbourne as Mexicans. No one knows why.]  

Suburbs of Sydney

On the next day, I was feeling perky so I wandered around Sydney for about 12 hours. I learnt some useful things here. One of them was the suburbs in Sydney are very, very small.

In fact, some don’t really seem to exist at all. For example, the difference between Paddington and Darlington seems to be which end of the same street you are on. This is great if you like walking around as you can take in quite a lot pretty quickly.
Let’s start with the most famous suburb in Sydney: King’s Cross.

King’s Cross


king's cross.jpgKing’s Cross is famous as the seedy red light strip of Sydney. And I guess yes there are prostitutes on the street at night and the bars stay open late and there are strip clubs and adult shops everywhere. And it can be a bit dangerous if you are an idiot.

But during the day especially, it’s a bit like a red light district if Disney had done it. It’s cute, obvious and not very seedy. It’s like a tourist resort red light district, which is, of course, because that’s exactly what it is.

At night the scarlet women hawk their wares on the street drunken tourists. The ones I’ve seen have been almost exclusively very unattractive indeed. So if you are there and drunk and think you’ve seen a hottie, I suggest you check yourself before you break yourself. Should you be interested in sampling this side of Sydney’s night life, my single suggestion would be to find the real brothels. There are loads of them, all over the place, subtly indicated by the traditional red lights of Roxanne and according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the local newspaper, this is where the footballer and such get their rocks off.  Apparently Stilettos is one of the best but I wouldn’t know. I’m not a footballer.

coke sign.jpgThis is the Coke Sign at the end of the King’s Cross strip - it is an iconic and much loved piece of advertising and is often used as a landmark for cabbies.

A note about Cabbies

An important point about cabbies in Sydney – none of them have any idea where anything is. They usually ask you for directions or refer to a map – there is no equivalent of THE KNOWLEDGE – all you need is a driving license to be a cabbie. This can be confusing for tourists as it means neither of you have any idea of where to go. So a map is very useful, for both of you.


drug peddlers.jpgWhen in King’s Cross, look down – the council or someone has obviously been attempting to make the place a bit more cultural by adding in all these interesting plaques about the area. Some of them are brilliant.

William Street

William Street runs down from the Coke Sign and into the City. It is thus prone to odd juxtapositions as it stretches from red light to financial districts of Sydney.
This is perhaps best expressed by conjuring the following image to your mind: a Maserati showroom next to a Ferrari showroom, lit up from the inside at night, and fronted by a number of long legged transsexual hookers.

I would have taken a picture for you but they don’t seem to like it. Perhaps they are camera shy.

William Street runs through Hyde Park, which brings me to another point – most places in Sydney have a counterpart in London. This can be confusing at first.

Try to ignore it.

Hyde Park is quite nice for a stroll and that but fairly unremarkable, except when they have displays and that, which can be good.

 hyde park.jpg

The Sydney Botanical Gardens

The main problem with Hyde Park is that it is very near the Botanical Gardens, and they are remarkable, so remark on them I shall.

One of my favourite places in Sydney – if it’s at all hot spend an afternoon wandering around and then chilling on the grass. In fact do it loads. Awesome place.

 walk on the grass.jpg
I’m no hippy but I loved this sign.

As you venture through the gardens, look up as there are flocks of flying foxes – also known as fruit bats – up in the trees. Freaks you out the first time you see them fly around I can tell you.

And if you walk all the way through you come to the harbour and some beautiful places to sit and stare.



Part Two Coming Soon.

Words and Pictures by Faris.

Talent Imitates, Genius Steals.       


Living in Sydney Part Two

Bondi Beach

Perhaps even more famous than King’s Cross is Bondi Beach – it’s in a suburb called Bondi which, although small like all Sydney suburbs, is not near many of the others and you can’t really walk there. Get a bus from Oxford Street.

It’s a nice beach but hectic – if you want peace check out the beaches further down the like Coogee or Bronte.

But you have to go to Bondi because it’s Bondi, and try to surf for a bit. There are loads of surfers and you will feel like a prat but you have to do it anyway. Costs about $25 to rent a board for a couple of hours.

Oh and you aren’t supposed to drink there until 2009, but if go up the far north side you’ll be alright.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Bridge pokes out above the skyline pretty much everywhere in Sydney. It’s cool – you can walk over it across to the
northern shore – but there’s not much there – the Prime Minister has a residence there as it’s one of the posh areas of Sydney but it’s pretty boring.

The only other thing I found on that side was Lunar Park. Despite the temptingly scary entrance, the place is pretty lame and aimed at the very young – I woudn’t bother if you aren’t with some really young children. Or are looking for really young children.

If you go into the pylon on the right hand south side of the bridge you’ll see they’ve turned it into a cute museum thing and for 8 bucks you can walk up and have a look see and learn about rivets and that.

You can then take a picture like this: bridge.jpg
But if you want the best views you can do the Bridge Walk – this is a 4 hour excursions where you walk to the very top of the bridge. Don’t worry the chain you on – but it costs about $200 bucks and you can’t take your camera in case you drop it on someone. You can purchase very cheesy pictures they take of you for lots more money.


China Town

Like all big cities, Sydney has a China Town. It has the standard run of Chinese restaurants called thing’s like Golden Palace and such. I didn’t really rate them.

gold tree.jpgIf you see this Golden tree thing you are nearby, but for an exceptional Chinese meal I would suggest you venture to Bondi Junction and the brilliantly named Kam Fook Chinese restaurant. Relatively pricey and they didn’t give me any free food but I still went back there several times so it must be good.

It’s also a good place to go before or after the movies – Bondi Junction has a huge cinema. Ah hell I had better just do a bit on Bondi Junction.

Bondi Junction

In between Bondi and the city is a huge shopping centre called Bondi Junction. It’s massive. Really really big and just as anodyne as any other shopping centre. It’s quite new so it has digital map screen things that are quite fun for a bit.

There is a huge Grand Union cinema in there and the aforementioned Kam Fook, alongside all the standard chains you would expect. The funniest thing there was this delightful counter where you could discuss how to reduce outbreaks of genital herpes in full view of passers by.



Living in Sydney Part Three



Australians are mental for markets. They have them wherever they can, as often as possible. Having been to a few I can’t really understand why. They all sell the sort of stuff you can only buy at markets, stuff that no one really needs. I’ll mention when we hit an area that has one just in case any of you think you do need market stuff. It fills up a rucksack pretty quickly though let me tell you.

Ok so I admit I used to think I might need some of that market stuff. Now my back hurts I’m less sure.


Ok so now all I can think about is markets so let’s head to Glebe. Glebe is a bus ride west of Sydney central. I forget which Bus, I’m sure you can work it out. All the signs are in English.

[Cultural Note: Language – Australians speak a language that is the same as English for everything important. The only big hurdle most English speakers face is with the word thongs, which are flip flops not thongs, unless you are actually talking to a Kiwi, in which case they are jandals and thongs are then thongs. Actually, come to think of it I can’t think of what Aussies call thongs now. Maybe g-strings.]

Glebe is the boho area of Sydney. This is because it is a cheap place to live and boho and hippies have no money. Perhaps this is why the like markets. Glebe has a market every Saturday.

It is very small. Don’t think Camden Market here. It is on the playground of a small school. Think tiny school fair thing. Only with hippies. 

It sells the standard issue hippy crap and smells faintly of weed. I would at least go have a look - I did get some good t-shirts of with cartoon characters on there.

The rest of Glebe is basically one street with some hostels and coffee shops. Maybe a pizza place, I can’t remember. Let’s say there was. Mario’s or something.

The Rocks

The Rocks is nowhere near and nothing like Glebe but they are linked in my head due to their markets. The Rocks one is much posher as it caters exclusively to idiot tourists. They sell things like pickled Koalas and that. Even I didn’t buy anything there and I’m an idiot.

The rest of The Rocks is great fun. It is the oldest place in Sydney, maybe in Australia, being the first place they built anything. They first thing they built was a pub. I love Sydney.

[Cultural Note: Pubs – Australia is a fantastic place for people who like pubs. They have lots and are very fond of them. However, they are a bit different to UK pubs.

[Sidenote – Does anywhere else have proper pubs? – Answers to my email address please]

Pubs in Australia are called Hotels – except only on the signage as everyone refers to them as pubs. This may well be to do with some arcane licensing thing some do seem to have actual rooms you can stay in but no one has ever heard of anyone staying in one ever.

Apart from the nomenclature, they are a few other important differences. Most don’t serve pints – they tend to warm up too fast to remain drinkable. All pubs have pokie machines.

In fact, it is mooted that most pubs are set up simply to house pokie machines. A Pokie is a one arm bandit type thing where all you do is push buttons repeatedly – you can’t hold or stick or anything – and then you lose you money. The have them in every pub. Every single one. The posh ones often hide them behind curtains or in different rooms. If they are in a different room, this room will be significantly bigger than the room that serves booze. This is because pokies generate approximately $100,000 every year in pure profit. Selling booze is essentially a mugs game by comparison and they only do it because you have to in order to have somewhere for the pokies, that isn’t technically a casino.

Australians like gambling a lot. Some of the out of town pubs have bookies incorporated into them as well. I had a cabbie who pulled over and nipped into a bookies while driving me around – he kindly stopped the meter before jumping out though.

I’m getting off the point though so back to pubs. The other thing all pubs have is a cash machine. Usually near the pokies. Do you see how this works? It’s genius. You can get money, booze and gamble. I might actually retire and open a pub in Sydney. ]

There are some great pubs in The Rocks, have a wander around where the Harbour Bridge hits the land. Contrary to the note above, pubs here serve pints as they are more English in some way. However, they also serve kangaroo pies to help balance this out.

Circular Quay

Is not circular at all but it is a quay. You can get boats from here across the harbour, which is something you really, really need to do. It’s great. Sydneysiders know that tourists need to do this so the place is swarming with performing types – imagine Covent Garden in London but near water and hotter.

This is possibly the only place in Australia you will see an aboriginal in full paint playing the didgeridoo. In fact it’s the only place in Sydney that I ever saw an aboriginal.

[Cultural note: Aboriginals – The whole Aboriginal situation in Australia is horrible and no one knows what to do about it. They have been treated appallingly and until very recently.

They couldn’t vote until the 1960s. Just before this they had a Lost Generation – the government decided that they couldn’t bring up children properly and took thousands of children away from their parents and put them in homes to train them to work in shops and that. No records where kept and so these people lost access to their tribes, not to mention their families for ever. When you consider that the Aboriginal culture goes back in an unbroken line over 40,000 years, the longest in human history, this human tragedy becomes a cultural one.

There have been a lot of news stories in the Australian press about systemic abuse in Aboriginal settlements of late. Don’t know the truth of the matter but if it is true it’s almost certainly caused by them being so screwed up by the white man. He brought them booze for the first time in their history and, like a large number of Japanese people, Aboriginals mainly lack the enzyme to properly break it down so it hits them hard. Alcoholism and poverty destroys families in any society.

It’s all so sad it makes me want to cry so, like the majority of Australians, I try not to think about it too much.]

Circular Quay is also where you can take hilarious perspective warping pictures of the Opera House, which is as essential here as it is in Pisa. 

Copy of Opera House.jpg



One of the places you can get the ferry to is the Zoo, so let’s head there next.







Taronga Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears oh my! As well as the more traditional antipodeans; marsupials and all that jazz. Only 2 mammals to lay eggs are both native to Australia – Platypus and Echidna. So now you know.


The Zoo and Ferry ticket costs about 30 bucks and is well worth it.

You can go inside the Koala enclosure and get a picture up close for $3, which is cute, and you can get very close to a lion, which is simply awe inspiring.








Surrey Hills

Surrey Hills is an “up and coming” part of Sydney. There are still quite a few brothels around, but some funky bars and designery type shops too.

They have a festival in the park there in June. They have a London Routemaster Bus there. [In case you wondered what happened to them].

Surrey Hills is also home the most innovative fusion restaurant in the world. It’s called Jazushi. It combines jazz with sushi: genius.


Talent Imitates, Genius Steals.      


Posted on Saturday, June 10, 2006 at 12:40 by Registered CommenterJam | Comments1 Comment | References1 Reference