Our intrepid explorer James Willis departs Thailand to the culture shock of Oz.
So, one ferry ride, sleeper train, subway and diverted flight later and I have departed the amazing beaches of Thailand for the tourist-filled sights of Sydney.
When people told me it would be a shock to spend five days in Sydney after my time in Thailand, I nodded along politely while not really believing them. However, they were right.
While Thailand had it’s tourists, Sydney is a far more metropolitan tourist area and while that sounds like an obvious thing to say, I honestly wasn’t prepared for it.
That combined with the fact that I was now in amongst this hustle and bustle by myself, with no friendly tour group by my side, which I’d grown quite accustomed to in Thailand.
It’s only after leaving the beautiful tropical islands that I’ve realised how much I appreciated having a tour group and making such good friends.
That said, Sydney’s not all bad. It just took some getting used to.
On my first evening here, having checked into the hostel, I took a 20 minute walk down the road to the harbour. Not just to get a glimpse of the most famous Sydney sights, but because it was the final night of the City’s “Vivid festival”.
Not like the music festivals we get in the UK, the “Vivid festival” is one filled with light shows around the harbour. Big patterns are projected over the roof of the Opera House, while the Harbour Bridge is lit up in many different colours.
Many of the other local buildings had patterns splayed across them too, museums and offices alike, while there were also smaller attractions along the harbour walk for the kids.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t prepared for Sydney and took a while to settle in, the light show was a very cool way of starting to see the city.
On my second day in the city, I headed down to see another famous sight. The popular Bondi Beach, which during the Australian winter is surprisingly empty yet still nice and warm.
A pre-booked surf lesson took up most of my time and I can proudly say that by the end of my first lesson I was already able to turn on a wave. In a package of three lessons, I was already content to be able to say that I’d caught a wave at Bondi.
The following day was my second lesson. While these were only 2 hour lessons, the area was nice enough for me to spend most of the day there. Another few waves caught, left me travelling back to the hostel happy enough.
My third full day in Sydney was the only full day I had to myself. So, I used it to tick off the other items I’d had on my list. A quick walk through Darling harbour (unimpressive it should be said) followed by a trip to the superior Sydney harbour to see those famous buildings again, but in daylight.
I then managed to catch a ferry from the harbour to the smaller yet far more appealing district of Manly.
It’s quickly becoming a popular trip for tourists to make and I can definitely see why. Manly is a small part of Sydney, sitting on a different part of the coast, almost entirely secluded from the main city.
It looks like a proper holiday resort, but surrounded by national parks, which are beautiful. I’d perhaps go over the top in describing how nice they were, if it hadn’t been for seeing the Thai rainforests and national parks beforehand, which eclipse Manly.
A walk through the overgrown trees and bushes was a pleasant escape from the big city, while still feeling authentically Australian.
Having caught the ferry back, I took advantage of the incredibly cheap Australian barbecue on the roof of the hotel before heading for bed to get some rest before my final surf lesson.
On my final full day in Sydney, I headed out relatively early for my third and last surf lesson.
While a small part of me may wish I’d just stayed back in the city for this one, it was still definitely an experience as it was an attempt at proper surfing. It wasn’t wading in through smaller waves and white water, with a huge board, to practice.
This was balancing on a smaller sized board, paddling out through the rip, pulling yourself across into the waves and timing when to move yourself. Perhaps this is why I was a bit less successful. Although, I still managed to stand in far harder circumstances, so I’ll count it as a win.
My biggest lesson from the day though, is to always check the Sydney transport system before travelling. Having taken one of the buses to a friend’s house for dinner, it took me longer to reach the edge of the city than if I’d have walked it… twice.
I can’t really complain though. It was a home cooked dinner that I’d been craving since leaving home, with a very generous helping of desert. Something I could never dream of gifting myself on a budget.
But now my time in Sydney has come to an end. An early morning tomorrow to sort out my backpack, followed by a quick train trip to the airport and, fingers crossed, a straight forward flight to California.