My fascination with Sydney comes from the long hours I spent by the television as a child watching test matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground. So when I was given the opportunity to study in the city, I was ecstatic. I was told it was going to be a hot and humid four years for me. However, as I write this Postcard from the comforts of my home, it’s a chilly 18 degrees Celsius, with heavy rains and thunder! Here is my postcard from Sydney, Australia.
Sydney is the biggest city in Australia. It’s quite a feat, considering the sheer size of the country. What the city doesn’t offer you in aesthetic pleasure (which is considerable) the seductive beaches do. That’s what the city is all about, mixing the natural with the man-made.
Sydney also happens to be a diverse city, with more and more expatriates coming here from all over Asia and many other countries. Nearly five million people call the city home, and the diversity helps to make the city the multicultural metropolis that hosted the 2000 Olympic Games.
The modern history of the city started with British settlers, who first arrived in Botany Bay in 1788 to set up a penal colony. The city started to undergo an economic boom by the mid-19th century, following a flux of settlers coming from various parts of the world, such as the UK and other parts of Europe.
Today, the skyline boasts myriad skyscrapers and impressive buildings alongside its vast harbours and beaches. The metropolis also houses the world’s largest natural harbour – the one and only Port Jackson. With the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House dominating the view, it’s no wonder it is known as the “Harbour City”.
My favourite place- Hands down, it’s Hyde Park. It’s a 16-hectare oasis of tranquility in the centre of the city’s business district and the oldest public park in Australia. Named after Hyde Park in London, Sydney’s version offers some unique stand-out features such as the bronze Archibald Fountain and the Anzac War Memorial. Towards the northern end of the park, you will also find Gregorian-style buildings from the 1800s.
Highlights- If you’re travelling to Sydney for the first time, brace yourself for some surprises. The Sydney Opera House is one of them. The pictures don’t do justice to its wondrous architecture and design – you have to see it to believe it. Apart from that, there are a number of beaches you can visit, with Bondi Beach being one of the most well-known. Scaling the arch of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is a must if you have a head for heights, and a guided tour can help you do just that. The city has a humid subtropical climate, making it a marvellous place to visit at any time of the year. If you’re travelling with kids, make sure you visit the harbour-side Taronga Zoo and Chinatown.
For culture lovers, there are plenty of museums and art galleries to choose from. Sports fans will love Sydney Olympic Park, which includes Stadium Australia, and may recall many legendary moments, such as Aussie Olympic Gold Medal 400m star Cathy Freeman’s torch lighting at the Sydney Games in 2000 (now a fountain) and English rugby star Jonny Wilkinson’s last-minute winning drop goal against Australia in 2003 (best not to mention that to your hosts!)
Lowlights- The spiders! Don’t get me wrong, Sydney isn’t infested with spiders but the average population of spiders is enough to irritate anyone planning to come here. Oh, when you aren’t worried about spiders, there are plenty of mosquitoes you can worry about.
Souvenirs- If you’re looking for something more than the sub-standard “I love Sydney” T-shirts or the clichéd stuffed koalas or kangaroos, head to the quirky Paddington Markets in the eastern suburbs, which is held every Saturday and where you’ll find one-off designs by independent fashion designers, artisan-crafted products for the home and some great street food.
Where to stay- I often stay with a lovely Australian family as a paying guest. If you’re looking for long stays, this is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for more upmarket accommodation, you could opt for the waterfront Park Hyatt or Shangri-La hotel. Cheaper alternatives would be the Harbour Rocks Hotel, while there also are a huge number of budget-friendly backpacker hostels in the inner city.
1. Take a break in Hyde Park
2. Take a tour of the Sydney Opera House
3. Go off the beaten track and explore the harbour’s hidden beaches, such as Camp Cove
4. Walk down George Street – Australia’s oldest street
5. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge