Sydney Harbour New Year

Having enjoyed some more famous Aussi hospitality beyond the Blue Mountains we returned to Sydney for the New Year fireworks.

It is difficult to get to the harbour side and more so if you have two bottles of wine in your paws, so we found a great grassy spot where the locals are spread out with picnics and tents in what seems like the best spot in Sydney for the evening.

Sydney to Running Stream

We travelled back from Manly beach yesterday on one of the Sydney Ferries. It was the perfect end to a good few days ‘chooking around’ the harbour. Sydney is more complex than I wanted it to be at first, but this has grown into a comfortable warm feeling of being somewhere where the weather, the food and the company is great.

Today we hopped on a train that took us through the blue mountains to the mining town of Lithgow just beyond. We are waiting there for a bus to take us to running stream where we are to head further into the countryside where a friend of my lady has built an eco house.

Yesterday I experienced my first barbecue at another buddy of hers. I soon sat back and enjoyed the company, the brilliant colours of the plants all around us, the bird song and the sing song conversation. I reckon it will take a while to fully acclimatise but I know it’ll happen because all anyone wants around here is for everyone else to be having a good time. Weh heh heh.

Sydney

Australia is a bit more smoke and mirrors than I expected it to be. Maybe this is because over in the UK we think we know about Australia, it crops up in conversation and a good deal of it’s population think of London as a second home, so when I arrived I expected it to be familiar. But no, to be honest Hong Kong feels more like home – not only because I lived there for a year, but because more people seem to speak English than they do in Sydney.

Don’t get me wrong here, I know Australia is a melting pot, I just didn’t expect it to be melting quite as much as it is.

On a practical work front it is difficult to get Internet access too. I found it easier in Cambodia than I do here, which I explain to myself as being the result of Australia having a huge infrastructure to support – but this doesn’t compute.

I do love this city though, we went swimming in the Olympic sized harbour side pool today where you can swim lengths while the harbour bridge stretches above you and over the bay. This is such an outdoor place. I am having to adjust my white skin to the outdoors though as it is hot and humid here, in my 6 weeks across S.E.Asia I haven’t come across heat like this yet.

We have walked everywhere – a bicycle would be better and a canoe better than that, but for now we have walked. The markets over at Balmain and Rozelle were a treat – at Rozelle a jazz quartet played whilst I got my aching shoulders massaged, I was enjoying that melting pot right then as well as when we tucked into a Singapore Laksha at the Darling Harbour food circle.

Sydney is going to take a little longer than I imagined to get the hang of and I’m glad for it, it’s those songs you always learn to love the most isn’t it!

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Arrival

My darling Donna Maria baff arrived on the 6.30 flight from London via Bangkok. It was so good to see a familiar face after almost 6 weeks on the road. We spent the day in each others pockets, batteries topping up like a bees knees with pollen. She is Australian, she’ll explain the place to me…

Merry Christmas Everyone.

I arrived in Sydney drained physically and emotionally. I had been on a ‘memory lane’ trip in Hong Kong that wasn’t healthy, I had spent my time retracing steps and sometimes it’s best to see things afresh but there is a lesson learned, but it did mean that I arrived in Sydney without that wide eyed wonder I normally bring to the party with me.

I called up some people I knew from Reading and they kindly put me up for the night. I probably would have been better had I booked a room at a hostel though, not because the hospitality was poor, they were wonderfully welcoming, but because I could have been a lot better company than the sorry knackered wretch that arrived on their doorstep. I was also Christmas eve and I hadn’t bought a bottle at duty free as we had originally arranged to meet up the pub so I didn’t want to drag booze around with us for the evening – I therefore decided that I would go to an offy (bottle shop) and repair this upon arrival – but John had been ill for the day so we met at their house. We popped out for the aforesaid ales but nothing was open. I sat supping a few beers that a neighbour had nicely brought down as my enthusiasm to get a few beers was translated as my wanting to get wasted, I felt mean.

Anyhow it was a nice evening, John made a pile of chip butties, Jason brought down a top kung fu movie and we all made the best of Christmas Eve – next time I’ll bring my enthusiasm with me, but John and Eddie (Edwina) aren’t the kind to hold grudges, they are salt of the earth people and will get a fine slap up feed at the first opportunity.

So, I’m going to save my musings on Sydney for when I have recharged my batteries, meanwhile I am wandering around munching on Australian delights (big fat sandwiches and pies) trying to get my head around this place. The harbour is busy, the weather not too hot and I can see it’s a cosmopolitan place, if we decide to live here it might be my home for a good while so I had better make the most of it.

Batman

I went up to the travellers hostel in the evening to see if any old faces were still around and found ‘George’ still living there. George is a  long term tenant of Chung King Mansions who gets very cagey whenever you ask him about his past.  He told me that John the Book had died in March of this year.

John the book was one of the characters I most remembered of my time in Hong Kong. He survived by selling old magazines or hiring neat clothes to travellers wanting to look nice for interviews. He was nocturnal.

But it was Alan who I met that evening that had the most strange tale to tell.

Alan is on remand at the moment. He is on remand because he was stopped by the police on a routine check, they found a knife and a knuckle duster in his pocket and decided, on this basis, to search his room at the hostel. What they found amazed them.

The police found a whole armoury including home made smoke bombs and a batman like outfit.

Alan had taken a disliking to the triads after splitting with his Chinese wife, so he decided to become a vigilante, getting rid of the scum off of the streets. He is handy with his martial arts so he would dress up in a mask and cape and then pounce on people that were up to no good. One trick he told me was to chuck ball bearings down an alleyway to confuse his prey.

Not being a witness to this I am not sure how comedic this effort would have been and indeed in the beginning I thought he was telling porkies so I doubted the validity of his story. But Alan showed me photocopies of the police report. He also has a video of them searching his room and pictures that the police took of every itemised weapon.

It might just be all true.

Apparently the police quite like him but they have to do their job and prosecute him.

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Hong Kong Fuey

The youth hostel at Mount Davis is basic but friendly, but it’s the view that you get which is priceless. I sat until late just enjoying the vista then turned in to crinkly myself to sleep on a thin plastic coated sponge mattress.

In the morning I took a bus to central and joined the throngs breakfasting in McDonalds. Afterwards I took the picture above which is why the sun is so low in the sky.

I then went to visit the place I stayed in upon arrival the first time around. I passed a woman in a lift that spouted ‘you loom, you loom’ at me as if I were deaf and in need of something to do with weaving. I kind of knew she meant room but what association she had with the said looms I couldn’t tell, so she looked dismissive and muttered her way into the lift and was off. That was the owner who speaks little to no English. The hostel itself looked deserted missing even basic furniture. At one time there was a bed near the door where a large black man slept and guarded the door at the same time, no mean feat, but now it seemed full of ghosts.

The travellers hostel was a funny old place where quite a few long termers in Hong Kong stayed as it was one of the few affordable bits of real estate to be found. There were a lot of English teachers and girls working as hostesses that entertained old Chinese men for a fee. I became very close to one of these girls, Jackie, who was the light and soul of the place. We would meet after her shifts and zip around the bars of Hong Kong from one happy hour to the next. One of these bars would pay men to dance on the bar top with no t-shirt on Wednesdays as it was ladies night, we would lean down and take another beer whenever we wished. We had no shame.

A few of the other full time resident of the travellers hostel were elderly Europeans that were not going home for love nor money. One of them, John the book, would rent out books, magazines and clothes, the clothes were for your first interviews that you don’t have anything in your rucksack for.The place was always busy, people gathered in the foyer swapping tips for jobs and the times of the happy hours for the bars around town, it was a lot of fun and felt like home. Now it looked devoid of life and a tad spooky as you can see from the picture below.

And another picture, where is everyone?

I was going to stay in the travellers hostel for old times sake but I decided that it felt a little morbid. I therefore headed over to the YMCA.

Now the Y in Hong Kong seems to be very unchristian. They charge 100 HK$ for Internet access alone so I am making sure I get my moneys worth.  I was also looking forward to a swim but the swimming pool is closed, I guess I’ll have to wait for my swim in Sydney’s harbour side swimming pool that I have been told so much about.