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Published: July 20th 2009
It could almost be London. Almost but not quite.
Halfway through my stay in Sydney, I felt the urge to finally get out and into Sydney's central districts. My nan and her friend Jeanie had originally intended to tag along but the long Bondi to Coogee walk yesterday had left them wanting to rest up back in the Manly apartment instead.
My uncle Kev kindly drove me into the city, right into the heart of Chinatown where I was on a mission from Glynn (not God) to track down a particular electronics store and pick up some goodies that are hard to come by and much more expensive in New Zealand. The shop's address suggested it was located in building number 3, store number 39 but after almost an hour wandering around in circles and asking everyone I could if they knew where the shop was, I was still clueless. Then, a momentary flash of inspirationled me to wonder if perhaps I should try building 39 instead and so a couple of blocks later, I finally found the right place.
The shop was on the third floor and I entered a stairwell with creaky, rickety old steps leading into a pretty derelict building. My spider senses were tingling
Or maybe I'm still in Auckland?
and I couldn't shake the feeling I was going somewhere sinister. I passed no-one on my way up and was still feeling unnerved as I entered the so-called 'shop'. It didn't look anything like a shop actually what with the knackered black vinyl couch patched together with silver duct tape in the corner and a small counter opposite the entrance behind which stood a fridge, a filing cabinet and a telephone straight out of the 80s. Against the side wall was a narrow glass display cabinet with about 4-5 basic electronic items on show. Looking around, I was really starting to wonder where my loving husband had sent me! Feeling uneasy, I called out to see if anyone was around in the back room and was relieved when a friendly looking Aussie chap poked his head out. I gave him Glynn's shopping list and attempted to pay by EFTPOS (like Switch in the UK) but my card was declined. Crap! I had no choice but to pay by credit card but then couldn't remember my pin number! Double crap! Eventually I managed to sign for the goods and was pleased to get back out onto the crowded street.
Sub of the Day
The battleship and submarine are part of the maritime museum down on Darling Harbour. Cool.
my shopping mission complete, I took a stroll through a big shopping mall and then down to Darling Harbour to watch the world go by along the waterfront. The harbour was much narrower than I imagined it would be, perhaps because I was likening it to Auckland Harbour which just isn't so built up. There was restaurant after restaurant and bar after bar lining the water's edge and I couldn't help but wonder if there are enough people in Sydney to fill these places up. Maybe I've been living in sparsely populated NZ for too long and I just can't get my head around large volumes of people any more!
I walked along to the maritime museum and checked out the old battleships and a submarine moored in the harbour. Then I headed up onto Pyrmont Bridge and watched as the city's monorail snaked silently past. I briefly considered taking a ride on the monorail but then remembered that my uncle had said it really wasn't much cop. Just then, I had a call from my aunt asking where I was but she couldn't quite hear me. I managed to catch that she, Kev, my nan and Jeanie were
Shine a Light
Not quite the skyscaper I was expecting to see in Sydney CBD!
in the city too and made my way to the location she gave me. I tried sending a text message to let them know I was coming but was horrified to find my phone out of credit. I had forgotten that my NZ phone would charge me to receive calls from Aussie phones. Dammit! As I walked towards their last known location, I got a text from Kev saying they were heading to Paddy's Market - in a totally different direction to where I was now going.
I needed to let them know to stay still so I could find them so I went to a street kiosk and asked the vendor if Aussie Vodafone credit would work on my NZ Vodafone mobile. He said "yes ok" so I went ahead and bought $20 worth of credit. Twice I tried entering the redemption code and twice it failed to register. I returned to the man to ask for my money back and he just pointed at my receipt which stated 'no refunds'. I tried arguing with the guy and quickly realised that not only was he Chinese but the only 2 words he seemed to understand were yes and
All modern cities should have one...
ok. After getting very cross with him (which evidently transcends all language barriers), he started pointing across the road, suggesting I go there. All I could see was a shoe shop which made no sense but I duly crossed the road to take a look, noting the street location of his kiosk in case I would have to report him.
Across the road there was another kiosk which I hadn't spotted because the back of it looked like a bus shelter. In it there was a Chinese girl working and I suspect she was the Chinese man's daughter. She spoke good English so I explained my problem. 'No refunds' she said despite me pointing out that I had been sold a worthless product. She directed me to the nearest Vodafone shop in an underground shopping mall to see if they could help. The mall was part train station, part mall and I quickly became disorientated, By now over 20 minutes had passed since Kev's text message and I was getting a bit concerned I was going to be stranded all alone in Sydney. Just then, I passed a travel agent and saw a woman sat at a desk waring
Bear in the Big City
Jish can't quite work out why any city would want a golden cattle prod as an iconic tower.
a telephone headset looking all friendly as only good customer service people seem able to do. I went inside to ask for directions but when she saw I was upset, she offered to let me use the company phone to contact my uncle. What a lovely lady!
I gave my uncle the location of the first kiosk and told him to meet me there while I dashed off in search of the Vodafone shop. The Vodafone guys confirmed that Aussie credit does not work in NZ phones and advised me to go back to the vendor and get my money back. When I reached the kiosk I was relieved to see my family waiting for me and I promptly filled them in on what had been happening. With my aunt as back-up (no-one messes with Auntie Margaret!), I returned to the Chinese girl, told her what the Vodafone guys had said and demanded my refund again. She put up a fight but eventually caved and sent me across the road, back to the first kiosk to get my money back. With the $20 note back in my pocket, I finally began to calm down and we all headed back
My Cousin Steve
Great guy and even though he disagrees with me, I reckon he looks like a proper authentic Aussie bloke!
to the car. What a drama!
We finished the day with a trip to see my other cousin, Steven, his wife Elettra and their 3 year old daughter Akasha. As with Danny, I hadn't seen Steve in 20 years and we had a good old catch up over a few bottles of cider on his apartment balcony. I didn't get to see much of his wife and hope to get to know her better next time I visit.
My over all impression of Sydney, dramas with shops and phone credit aside, was reasonably favourable. I would have liked to have more time to explore some of the many, many shops - especially the ones in the underground mall - but I guess I'll have to save that for next visit too. The city reminded me of a fictional version of London with staues of Queen Victoria and Edwardian style municipal architecture but clean streets where I would expect to see plenty of litter. I was reminded of the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street at times but there weren't nearly enough people pushing and shoving aroundto make it truly feel like England. Sydney to me feels like a
Here's my nan Betty who is great grandma to Steve's daughter, Akasha.
younger, smaller, cleaner, better version of London but my heart still lies in Auckland. We definitely made the right choice when choosing New Zealand as our new home.
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