Walking our way through Sydney
The starting point of every trip has to be a travelogue and I had found the best one to accompany me during my trip to Australia. "Down under" by Bill Bryson, grew on me and through his stories and witty observations, instilled in me a familiarity with Australia even before my touchdown in Sydney. To be frank, the other reason for carrying the book along was because for our long flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney we were flying with Air Asia and as most would be aware, budget airlines do not believe in entertaining their passengers. The flight took us over most part of the island continent, entering Australian airspace from its northwest corner and making its way to the east coast. Most of what I saw was red rocks, sand, and wilderness. I must admit that I was not expecting Australia to be this big, after all, it was only an island. So, I curled up in my window seat, made myself some white coffee, resorted to my travelogue and settled into the recurring views of the Australian outbacks. The sun rose for us in Malaysia and decided to set when we were somewhere in the middle of Australia and finally it was night by the time we landed in Sydney. As a welcoming gift, Sydney had decided to light up her proudest structures and our eyes feasted on the colorful Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, courtesy the annual festival of lights called Vivid. Talk about unexpected coincidences. We never planned to be part of these festivities, but here we were, being welcomed into this new country with all the pomp and show that they had to offer. After procuring a map of Sydney along with metro rail information, we sped our way to the King's Cross station to drop our luggage at our hostel and go check out the grand finale of Vivid.
Having had a chance to go to London the year before, the maps of Sydney confused me. The stations, parks, and streets had the same names as some of these in London. After 15 mins of disorientation, I concluded that the Brits got lazy naming places in Sydney, despite having traveled such a long way to colonize it. Or maybe it was nostalgia that made them do that, but let the names not fool you as Sydney's Hyde Park, Kings Cross station, Paddington borough and more, may sound London-ish, but these places are nothing like London, hell, the whole city was nothing like London. An interesting fact about Sydney is that it was colonized by the British in the 18th century to be used as a penal colony for prisoners. Since then, obviously, a lot has changed given that Sydney has bays that conducive for shipping ports resulting in it being key in quite a few shipping routes. However, it would be safe to assume or rather hope that the city has recovered from its criminal past and moved on unless criminal minds is a genetic condition.
Being an expensive continent, we decided to stay in a hostel to save quite a few bucks. While the hostel itself was located in a fairly hip locality and had comfortable beds, its most predominant feature was a 40-year-old dorm mate of ours who gave us the creeps. He seemed like a grown man, out of a job and living in his little corner in the hostel. While we did not know his story, what we knew was that he thought that it was perfectly okay to watch tv-series without his earphones, late into the night when people in the dorm were suffering from severe jet lag. Dropping our luggage at the hostel, we made our way to the Circular Quay to enjoy the fireworks and the closing ceremony of Vivid. Since we had a chance to get a glimpse of it from the sky, we were not expecting to be wooed but standing below the Harbour Bridge and taking in the enormity of it all, we were wooed alright. After the splendid displace of light and music, we roamed around the Circular Quay and The Rocks area for a while before we decided to turn in for the night.