Tag Archives: Sydney

Bali!

Bali…”full of culture and blissful beaches” according to Lonely Planet. More importantly “where Liz Gilbert found ‘Javier Bardem’, solved her stresses, found love, and completed her year long journey of self-re-creation”. I really wish I’d come before Eat Pray Love became a hit…even if I am guilty of quoting and referring to it as a comparison benchmark for my own travels. That does NOT mean I don’t like it…it just means that visiting a Wayan (or medicine woman) is 85 dollars instead of an offering, same with Ketut or other ‘medicine men’. Yoga is 10 dollars a class on a 10 punch pass…not really that much cheaper than home…and I would actually invest serious cash in a sign that said “no thank you, I have a sarong already and I don’t need a taxi” in Balinese.

First I may interject and include a paragraph on ‘getting to Bali’….Jetstar was actually sweet….they still nickel and dimed on food, but I had an entire four seat row in the middle to myself, got free movies, the flight attendants didn’t have poles up their behinds, and made the extra effort to get my bags stored while I explored Sydney on my 8 hour lay over. First, do not EVER take the 400 from airport to Bondi Beach…it is a 2 hour journey….secondly, I didn’t realize until I met Simon in Bondi Junction for lunch (right near the old Xmas flat) how much Sydney had become a second home. I only spent over a month there….but I had spent that much time in Peru and never missed it like I do Sydney….Perhaps it was realizing that stepping into Bondi Jct I was familiar for what would be the last time in 8 months…or the fact that I understood what everyone was saying…or the fact that I had a juicy steak and didn’t doubt that it was in fact beef. Perhaps the fact that upon landing I had incoming phone calls, met with Simon and my relative, Eva for a coffee at le Pain Quotidienne…or the fact that I didn’t even have to check what train to get on….or the fact that my lingering accent has aussies in Bali asking where in Australia I’m from…but although I am ecstatic to be in Asia, I am having an unexpected longing for the carefree times I had in Oz.

Beyond that Bali definitely is full of culture, blissful beaches, and a sort of appreciation for the every day blessings. I started out in Sanur…nicknamed as ‘snore’ by LP, but the hub to ferry to Nusa Lembongan and subsequently the Gili Islands. Quite frankly it was a great place to start…everybody else I’d met had a mad hate on for Kuta, and Sanur was kind of like an Asian less ritzy version of Mexican resort strips. I was there about 20 minutes into the first monsoon rain when I decided to peace out inland instead of island bound. I’ve just spent 4 months drinking on beaches….I wasn’t about to pay to take a ferry ride to tourist-ville to not even be able to enjoy the beaches….had I come straight from home, I’d be there preying on the 2 hours of rainless, still sunless heat…but I didn’t.

While in Sanur I did manage to watch a cremation, buy a sarong for said cremation, eat local food….asked for chillis….shouldn’t have asked for chillies…, swim, and eat a hawker stall dinner while playing chess on the beach with local kids. I also met a sweet half Asian half dutch lady from Germany who made me believe that in my middle age I will look okay with blonde hair…

Anyway, I set off to Ubud on Perama bus. A tourist shuttle about 1/3 of the price of taking my own taxi. (which is like 4 dollars instead of 15). Might I also point out…you will get the BEST exchange rates IN Bali…don’t exchange before arrival…and if you are from Oz they have Commonwealth atms EVERYWHERE… I arrived in Ubud where I had a homestay booked for 17 a night (150k Rr) when a man named Nyoman told me he had my own cottage for 100k. Tempting, I kept walking…then he caught up to me on his motorbike…I hopped on to look at the place….I figured I could always jump off so it was obviously less sketchy than hopping in the rapist car in Kings Cross…. The place is great! Suartha Pension homestay is the name….I was able to bargain him down on a weekly rate probably cheaper than anywhere else in town and I get breakfast every morning, which is a plate with Cora style fruit, eggs, toast, and Coffee. I’m happy. So I’m here in Ubud for a week, chilling, yoga-ing, meditating, hunting down local specialties from hawker stalls, and avoiding technology (with the exception of today’s calm everyone the F down, I am alive wifi connection and this post), while I bliss out in what feels as quaint, accepting, and homely as Byron Bay…and we all know how much I loved Byron Bay.

I’m really digging the ‘home stay’ situation. I have helped making the daily offerings that they make to put on steps for the gods, learned some Balinese, got breakfast in bed, my own room, and actually feel like I’m staying here, not visiting. It will also be really cool for the upcoming Balinese New Year (My third New year in 2013!!) called Nyepi….basically the day before is insane festivals and the day of is complete silence, and everything shuts down. The only people allowed outside of houses are the Nyepi police who patrol the streets to ensure everyone is observing the holiday…even foreigners!

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New Year as a Sydneysider

This post should probably be called half way to Asia because it’s all about doing things cheaply and eating Asian food BUT it is still more technically the chronicles of my last few weeks in Sydney.  It’s only dawned on me recently (like the past few days) that I’ve ‘lived’ in Sydney for a month as opposed to ‘been’ to Sydney.

 

I took my last train ride home from work at Chatswood on the harbour bridge this afternoon. Which is probably good because that train ride home started including tim tam garnished froyo a little too often.  That being said, it was quite the cathartic ride as I realized how many things or ‘isms’ I’ve caught on to over the past few weeks.  This coming especially after I met up with the lovely Katie again last night who said when I arrived, and I quote, “You’re not going to pick up an accent, Ani…you have such a strong Canadian accent”, whose first comment was “YOUR ACCENT CHANGED”…and at work this week nobody asked me where I was from.  In fact one lady was genuinely surprised I wasn’t Australian.  (I mean…I’ve adopted some weird ‘o’s but…you can tell I’m not Australian…If anything I probably sound English with an Australian twang).  Something as lame as adopting the accent and words: bin, reckon, heaps, how ya going, dickhead has made me realize how even though Australian culture isn’t that different I`ve still molded to the differences and made them familiar.  As much as it was sad to think I`m leaving something that is now its own pseudo version of home, I also realized that in just a couple months I managed to be resourceful enough to create a productive lifestyle for myself 17 time zones and an opposite hemisphere away from home.  For that, I`m more than a little proud of myself and a lot more confident about the travels to come.

 

Back to the point of the post…ultimately to talk about food…

 

First though, I must say I’ve hit a new low.  I can’t remember if I spoke about my ‘scam’ in my previous Sydney post but I doubt it seeing as how I’ve only recently returned to backpacker mode.  Oddly even though I got paid this week I’ve been frugal as ever.  The reason: I have carried my backpack within the last 7 days and have just paid my flights to New Zealand and Bali.  Being in the flat was amazing!….but I felt as rich as the flat falsely represented me as….No, I do not need a $40 diary from kikki.k to organize which beach I plan on laying on tomorrow, nor do I want to carry it.  Additionally, just because I have a kitchen to myself doesn’t mean that I must eat smoked salmon and steak every day…. ANYWAY I’m back on the budgeting track and enjoyed the ‘high life’ while I lived it [in denial].  Back to my new low…It’s Australians’ fault really for not having drip coffee…when you can only get lattes that are minimum 3 dollars and only have one shot and come in a cup smaller than a Starbucks tall what do you expect me to do?!  Basically, 7-11 has $1 coffee…$2large and it’s self serve.  SO what you do is go to a store that’s busy enough that they won’t catch on, press long black, get the shot, remove the cup while water is pouring and repeat until you have an amount of caffeine that will actually keep you awake.  What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been scamming a self-serve latte machine into giving me triple Americanos for a dollar for the past 3 weeks…and I don’t really care.  I also chose to walk 2km uphill home in 43 degree heat because it was $1.10 cheaper to get off 2 stops earlier.  I also go to Asian food fairs right before they close to stock up on 3 for 10 meals and 2 for 3 sushi rolls.  I also go to coles/woolworths early in the morning or late at night to get reduced to clear dairy, bread, and rotisserie chickens.  I also price shopped Asian dollar stores to find the cheapest toothpaste…I saved 20 cents.  For a while I had an excuse, as payroll took longer than expected at work and I legitimately had no money…but since I’ve been paid I’ve gotten worse.  Potentially because I booked flights and feel like I got a terrible deal, but probably because I find way too much satisfaction in finding a deal.  The goal: 230 bucks and 10 days in Oz….make it last. 

 

Anyway, as cheap as I’ve been, I’ve also been eating out a lot.  I made the mistake of discovering that Urbanspoon exists in Australia…and therefore have been compelled to try the top cheap eats which are all in Chinatown which is literally a 4 minute walk from my door at Wake Up! Sydney.  Perfect location for a hostel—right by all the coach buses (how ALL oz backpackers travel  on the coast), right by the cheapest food ever, and walkable to circular quay.  Unfortunately for my waistline, there are a solid 20 places with over 90%…So far I’ve tried authentic Ramen…and now I get why it’s a fad in Vancouver….it’s definitely not 2 minute noodles.  I’ve been to a couple Malaysian restaurants, I’ve gotten sell off dim sum.  I’ve had a tons of sushi rolls, a couple bubble teas, and lots….and lots of froyo.  I could list a bunch of places but honestly…just hit up urban spoon.  Sydney’s selection of Asian restaurants is extensive and Chinatown is unreal.  They actually have people from the proper countries running the restaurants unlike Calgary where everything is owned by Chinese whether its Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, etc.  (YES, I know that’s a generalization, BUT to an extent it’s very true)

 

I also found –what I initially thought was an independent place—Max Brenner’s which is basically chocolate made with chocolate on chocolate with chocolate in drinkable, edible, any form consumable.  Sadly it’s an American chain…but it’s not in Canada, so I’m still going to be excited about it.  Although I’m praying the positive skin effects of the collagen in ramen will counteract the breakout I deserve for how much chocolate I consumed in the 3 day period after I discovered it.  Katie and I went to the George St location before going to Morisson’s for a bottle of wine.  Yes, a BOTTLE…not a 4L carton that ‘may contain dairy, gluten, and fish eggs’. 

 

I have figured out my ‘places’ though, and that Sydney doesn’t have to be as crazy expensive as people say it is.  On the opposite note of that I met up with my relative in Double Bay…  That wasn’t a bargain end of town.  (It did however have much nicer shampoo brands at ALDI –the discount grocer—including fake Moroccan Oil….guess what ani’s carting over to NZ)  SO beautiful!  She described it as Noosa in the city and I couldn’t agree more….and we all know how much I loved Noosa!  There were trendy shops, beautiful cafes, big trees, and right on the harbour.  Life goal: Work in double bay, live close enough by (Bondi would do), and be comfortable enough that I can afford to shop and eat EVERYWHERE.

 

I should also mention NYE in Sydney!  Truly amazing fireworks off of the harbour bridge.  There were shows at 9 and midnight, after the 9pm I was a bit afraid I’d be underwhelmed but the midnight show didn’t fail to impress.  Our group of friends went to Birchgrove park on the West side of the Bridge.  We had a great view but weren’t close enough to hear the countdown or music that was apparently playing at the opera house.  There were a million and one parks to go to, many you could drink at, and many that were selling food/drinks.  They city of Sydney webpage had everything well mapped out so you could chose which location you wanted to go to to best suit your wants/needs.  We got to Birchgrove at noon which was WAY too early…there was a capacity for 5,000 people…based on that I’d say probably 800 were actually ever there.  We stole some toilet paper early on to take to the bush later in the night when the porta pottie lines were too long…other than that a true delight.  We played soccer/football all day while drinking and barbequing.  I would say our location was mostly travellers seeing as how most sydneysiders know friends who live close by or have ins to the closer more enviable places.  I liked being with our group though, being with the new family and a group of people that had never seen the fireworks before was just the way to spend the new year.  The only issue after was the infinite ride home…it probably took us 3 hours to get back to Bondi…BUT it was free public transport which was good and responsible as far as eliminating drunk driving. 

 

Anywayyy that was a very sporadic post, but that’s kind of how my time in Sydney has been.  I’m currently compiling my OZ playlist and greatest memories to do a final post, but first I will be doing 2 more days of MOJO surf, heading to Wollongong, Melbourne, and going to Great Ocean Road!  The rest of the plan includes a flight to Christchurch late on Jan 22, and a flight from Auckland to Bali on the 25th of February!  I could not be more excited to continue my journey even though I’m actually realizing I’ve created a lot to miss in Sydney. 

Life as a Sydneysider

Since leaving Spot X I’ve been living in Sydney like a proper Sydneysider (flat, job, train to work, the whole shibang). I’ve found a few really great spots and had some lovely experiences…so much so that It’s been almost two weeks since I last posted (whoops!).

When I first got to Sydney I had Thai food with a friend I met in Coolangatta for 8 dollars…EIGHT…and it was amazing. Just outside of the Westfield complex at Bondi Junction. I can’t remember the name, but I know it was about a block from commonweath bank machines and parallel to Oxford Street. My friend couldn’t taste the difference from the thai food she had in Thailand a few weeks ago and they had lunch specials for 6 bucks! The only downside with ‘authentic’ food is ‘authentic’ spice. I think I fully cleared my sinuses and GI tract of any lingering viruses I might have accumulated along the coast. There was also a 6 dollar Ramen restaurant and dollar sushi roll restaurant close by. NOTHING makes me feel like more of a legit local than finding cheap, hole in the wall food!!

Later that week I met up with my SpotX friends! A couple girls we met were from Sydney so we got to take a look at some true local eats! First we went for Sushi at Zushi in Surrey hills. I had great rolls with tuna belly, salmon, avo, cucumber, daikon…and something else–they were delicious! Because I was saving room for gelato I didn’t try any hot food, but it looked great and the staff and atmosphere were trendy and high energy. I would definitely go back again, I was very satisfied with my one order of rolls totalling less than 20 dollars.

MESSINA GELATO. Auntie Elise, this one’s for you! So everyone from work, every young person from sydney, and most sydney food blogs mention Messina…now I know why. With a collection of signature and special flavours, they have a repertoire of flavours much classier and fresher than any Ben & Jerry’s shop (YES, there is Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream shops just like there are baskin robins!!). I had Chocolate fondant and salted caramel flavours…definitely to compete with the earl grey gelato had in Vancouver earlier this year! They had a greeter and plenty of staff that made the small space (with view of gelato being freshly made) a buzzing but comfortable place to be. There are locations in Darlinghurst and Surrey hills…perhaps elsewhere as well..but screw tim tams and UGGS, if I could ship anything back it would be Messina Gelato!

We polished off the night at Pocket Bar a small, trendy (maybe a little hipster) lounge unsuspectingly a couple blocks off of oxford. We had some Cider and called it a night…well they did.

I proceeded on to a Drag Christmas show on Oxford where I got a free [half] big mac and then to King’s Cross…Don’t go to King’s Cross….

Continuing on, I’ve gotten a job in Sydney at lululemon based on my experience back home which has been good to make some money and plant my feet a little deeper in Sydney’s vibrant culture. It’s been a really different experience working for a Canadian company in Australia, especially one that has such a strong company culture and brand power at home. To get to work is a bit of a trek, but honestly 33 bucks a week for unlimited train between Bondi Junction and Chatswood chase is pretty cheap and it includes hop-on-hop off to any locations I need to go to in the city (If you buy a weekly train pass in syd after 3pm you get the day you’re buying it on as a bonus)! ALSO I get to see the opera house as the train crosses the harbour bridge EVERY day…HOW COOL!

I also have a quick awesome holiday story. So I was an idiot and put my train pass through the wash the DAY I bought it :(. I got to the train early this morning to beg for a new one with my reciept and the supervisor basically said that my mild dew (hyperhydrosis) of nervousness combined with my foreign accent (Still getting used to being ‘foreign’) amounted to enough charm and gave me a new one!!!! I’m not by any means saying you should try and con City Rail….but I just think based on my experiences in Australia lately that maybe us North American folk could benefit from bending the rules a little more often, because the leniency here has honestly made my time tenfold better.

Proceeeeeeding on. My knee is almost better…that means MOJO SURF Round 2!! Super excited and terrified. After running form Bondi Junction to Bronte Beach and back…and 3 days later still not being able to properly flex my left leg, 3 days of surf could be excruciating for the arms/core.

That being said, being with lululemon means YOGA AGAIN. SO excited to get started into my sweat routine again, and will definitely keep you posted on any great studio finds. On the hit list: Barre and skipping classes!!

Chrissy at Bondi…the typical backpackers/orphan christmas. Good thing that Christmas and boxing day (my only days off) were probably the only bad weather days that Bondi has seen since I arrived almost 2 weeeks ago. As we do, we rallied up some goon and trekked to the beach anyway. With our portable bbq’s (YES, amazing right!! What looks like a lasagna tray and has coles, a grill, and matches ready to smoke away) burgers and condiments we had a great day. We had the security guards tell us many times not to drink on the beach…then the police came, told us we could get cheap tickets to the beach party, Sunburnt, and left without a problem. Our theory, the security guards were just jealous of our fun.

Also, Chatswood chase: Upscale mall….Chatswood (the street its on) is basically mini china town. I’m seriously struggling passing by all the asian dollar stores and cheap restaurants on the way to and from work every day. For the first week of work they actually had street vendors as well-big love (There’s ALWAYS free samples:P).

Upcoming, we have 10 days left in our rental flat (WHICH IS LUXURIOUS)….then I will be moving to a double room in Wake Up Sydney to ease the transition back to hostels and live in the heart of the action of Sydney’s CBD…then Wollongong….then Melbourne…then NEW COUNTRY: New Zealand. And before that all happens, New years in Sydney!! Apparently the biggest most epic fireworks in the world–keep you posted!