Thursday, 19 September 2013

Left my heart in Sydney

Recently, I took a very brief but rewarding trip to Sydney...when I say recently, I should clarify that I left Australia just about 12 hours ago! It was my first time back in Australia in 16 years and my first as an adult. It had been so long that I knew the experience would be akin to visiting this unique country for the very first time, even though I actually spent my teenage years in the country's capital. I enjoyed growing up in Australia so it wasn't like I vowed never to return but the responsibilities that come with getting older took away the luxury of being able to run off to any destination whenever I please. Somehow, 16 years had flown by. Coming back here allowed me to reflect on how has happened in my life since I last stepped foot on this remote land down under.

Even though I grew up in Canberra, I had visited Sydney dozens of time so I didn't feel obligated to do too much sightseeing. I wanted to come here, catch up with some dear friends and spend time in the city centre to get a flavour of what the Sydney cosmopolitan experience is like in comparison to London and New York. I stayed at the Swissotel Sydney, which was an excellent choice. Located right in the heart of the city's Central Business District, I was in easy walking distance to the main landmarks within the city centre, including UNESCO World Heritage site Sydney Opera House. I was so central that looking out one of the windows (they kindly put me in a corner room), it was as if the Telstra Tower was right next door!

Sydney is one of those rare hub cities where you have the best of both worlds; it is a commercial and cultural epicentre that is located along a coastline so not only can you go to the visit the museum of contemporary art or see a production of 'South Pacific' at the Opera House but you can also spend a lazy Sunday afternoon at a heavenly beach. There are plenty of beaches to choose from around the city but the most famous Sydney beach has got to be Bondi Beach. My friends took me to Bondi the day that I arrived and as far as jet lag-relieving activities go, lying in the sand as you watch hunky surfers and lifeguards going through training drills wearing their little 'cossies' is definitely not a bad choice. It was as if my Sunday had turned into an Aussiebum swimwear photoshoot!

An indirect benefit of this trip was my heightened appreciate of the gay scene in London. Although it has long been considered one of the gay capitals of the world, a reputation that has been cemented in the past few decades by the world-renowned Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, the nightlife culture here is somewhere less developed compared to London and New York. The 'scene' is concentrated all in one area, along the stretch of Oxford Street in Darlinghurst. The bars and pubs that I visited with my friend all seem slightly dated, both in decor and the clientele. I don't intend to be flippant and it is certainly not my intention to make an ageist remark. There is nothing wrong with places that are welcoming and casual but from what my friends tell me, there is not a great deal of variety in the scene. People tend to go out only at the weekend. Unfortunately for me, I spent the weekend travelling to Australia so it would be unfair for me to say too much more about the scene here. Still, even if the gay nightlife in Sydney is somewhat lacking during the week, that is not to say that I didn't have a fabulous time going out during my trip. My friends and I went to some memorable cocktails at some of the most glamourous hotels in town. I found style and sophistication in abundance so if you are a traveller who enjoys the finer things in life, you will love Sydney, especially if you are staying in the CBD.

Anyway, I just arrived in Bangkok not long ago but I'm still on Sydney time and it's already 8:30am so I should probably go to bed soon. Here's hoping that it won't be another 16 years until my next trip to Australia!