I’m now officially alone in Sydney. With technically no one I know of in the city (I’ve got a good buddy, but he’s all the way in Blue Mountains; I have a 30 something year old second cousin but I’ve only met him once, here in Sydney. And I know a pastor but I’ve only met him once yesterday) I feel like I’m starting on a new life. Like a brand new person. Moving on.
It rained this afternoon. So its very cold and wet outside. I went out to throw the garbage and started shivering. My wool scarf offered minimal warmth. But I was wearing t-shirt and jeans and slippers, so maybe that’s why my body temperature took a dive. Luckily my air-con has a heater option so I’m now sitting in my comfortable cube hole with warm air caressing my back.
I got lost today for a while in Sydney. Somewhere around UTS (University Technology, Sydney) library, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Building and Market City (Hays Street), I was walking around in circles for 15 minutes. And as I said above, it rained this afternoon. Of course I wasn’t walking under the rain but I was walking around in a very cold weather. Thank goodness I bought two wool scarf (made in Korea, sold by Korean lady!) for 10 bucks so one scarf, a thick cotton hoodie and t-shirt, a pair of jeans and sneakers protected me. That said, it was a not totally unpleasant experience. But I’ll talk about it later.
Now I’ll like to talk about getting around Sydney.
Sydney’s an interesting place. To a city dweller like me who lived in a city for 3 years with mostly high-rise blocks and buildings with a highly organized grid layout, Sydney’s messy and flat layout is quite a change. I did live in another city with the layout of Sydney’s: Ho Chi Minh City. But most of the major activities (my activities) of Ho Chi Minh are confined within a few districts and all roads led to District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. Getting around Ho Chi Minh was easy due to that reason and another reason: being led in a chauffeur-driven car or cheap taxis or cheap motorbike taxis (xe ohm).
That said, getting around is a major pain. Winding, narrow streets; unexpected turns and confusing street names; one week here and I still get lost.
Just to point out something, when I mention the city, I mean the CBD area, Chinatown and the surrounding areas. This extends to the Broadway and the main campus of University of Sydney and UTS. This also extends a few kilometres north to include the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This also extend a few kilometres west to include the general area of Potts Point. Basically, these are the places I’ve been to in Sydney. When I mention the suburbs or the outskirts, these are the places I have not been to, although they might not be really suburbs or the outskirts.
There are generally four kinds of public transport in Sydney: Buses, Sydney Light Rail, Sydney Metro (trains) and taxis. However, public transport is of no help. Its equally confusing. Let’s get on with the first public transport.
There are no actual bus stops in Sydney like those in Singapore: the sheltered area with nice big schedules detailing stops of each bus and the prices and with a big blinking LED screen to show you in how many minutes your bus will be arriving.
Sydney’s bus stop is basically a bench on the pavement with a big pole saying “Bus” and the schedules fixed onto it. The schedules are confusing and I can’t really work them out. They do have bus stops like those in Singapore (sans the LED screen) but I only see them mostly in the CBD areas.
I took my first bus trip yesterday. It was stressful. But luckily, I got onto this red bus called Metreo 10 or something like that and it was one of the newer buses. Inside it has a automated voice and a LED screen informing passengers of the next stop. But today was nerve-wrecking. I got onto those buses without that voice thingy and LED screen (most buses in Sydney are like that) and spend 10 minutes looking out of the window trying to find any major landmarks.
Both trips ended at Chinatown. I didn’t there to venture further for fear of crossing into a different colour zone and incurring a fine. You may be thinking what colour or zone I’m talking about. In Sydney, the distances are arranged in zones and not according to the distance travelled, like in Singapore. Basically the first zone is the Blue Zone which stops at the Town Hall, further that, is the Brown Zone, further on Green Zone, out somewhere in the suburbs and outskirts is the Red/Black/Rainbow Zone. Confused? Don’t worry, I’m very confused too.
And because there are so many type of bus tickets and all of them have to be bought beforehand (no tickets sold on buses), you have to make sure you get the correct tickets so that you can travel between the correct colour zones. For example, my Blue ticket (TravelTen pass) allows me to make ten bus trips between two colour zones (usually the Blue and Red). Any further and I have to get a different tickets. So its not like Singapore’s zap your electronic ticket and go concept.
Then there’s the Sydney light rail. The light rail is like the equivalent of Singapore’s LRT except over here it only travel around the city centre. I like the Sydney light rail, it acts like a tram whenever it comes down from the rail and onto the street. Problem is, where are the stations? Where are the stops? I saw a few stations above Goldburn Street, near World Square. The light rail runs above the pedestrians’ heads on raised tracks. But I don’t see any entrance to a station. So, how am I going to use the light rail? The hunt for the entrances is still on.
And finally Sydney Metro. I haven’t been on the Metro yet but I’ve been to Sydney’s Central Station where the metro is (and the inter-city trains too). My second cousin once warned me that I have to check the schedules of the train, then gauge my timing and make sure I get onto the correct platform and train. He admitted that he still gets the wrong train every now and then. GULP. So far, I don’t really get how the Metro works. But this week would be my big test: I’m taking the Metro to Bondi Junction. I could take the bus, but I’ll probably end up somewhere far far away.
Finally there’s the taxi service. Taxis are quite a common sight in the city centre. I’m currently a non-working student and so taxis are not in my budget. I haven’t taken one yet, so I’ve nothing to say about them.
And though I have a driving license, I don’t have a car yet. But I don’t think I’m going to drive around Sydney especially with Sydney’s small, narrow road. Most roads have two lanes on each side and majority of the roads have one lane taken up by parked cars or buses. Combined with the confusing street layout, driving around Sydney is a major challenge, not recommended for a newcomer unless you have a GPS or a person trained in army map reading with you.
So with all these factors, how do I get around Sydney. I walk, A LOT. I walk here, I walk there, I walk and walk some more. Good thing I had the prior training with Ranga, Sharmen and Gilbert in Singapore. Walking around the island city has really built up my stamina.
But it was also the reason of my predicament today, being lost. On foot. Sure, although it was unpleasant with the cold, wet weather and being lost in a foreign city, at least I was still in the city centre so all I had to did was to look up and search for the tall buildings which would lead me back to the CBD area.
However, I wanted to go back home, not to the CBD area. One tall building saved my life. The UTS building. My hostel is just walking distance from the building. So I looked up, scanned the sky and to my joy, spotted the building. Soon I headed in that direction and within 10 minutes, was back in my neighbourhood. Along the way, I stumbled across some places I haven’t seen yet and made mental notes to myself to explore those places the next time. So quite an enjoyable walk, really.
One thing though. I’m really cursing myself for not getting a camera. Really. Cursing. Myself. KNN.
I could have taken a lot of pictures and posted them.
I apologize for the wordy blog.