I arrived at Bangkok airport on May 12 to find out that my parents lovely next door neighbor, Betsy, had managed to get me upgraded on my British Airways flight to Sydney! So I went from being a poor backpacker living in dirty guesthouses to walking in to the Business Class lounge with all the other richer travelers. I felt slightly out of place with my clothes that I’d been wearing for the last week of partying and my bare feet, but hey, they still let me in!
This Strange Western World….
May 29, 2009 by Marianne
After a long flight where I watched Milk, Happy Go Lucky, The Reader and Frost/Nixon in the World Traveler Plus section of my Bangkok to Sydney plane I arrived in this strange place, where people spoke English, and signs were in English, and people weren’t bowing to greet each other….I didn’t know what to do. I decided to put my sandals on since I was now the only barefoot person in the place, and it was FREEZING!!! Okay, not freezing maybe, but that’s how it felt after months of wallowing around in oppressive heat.
I got through immigration, found my backpack and went through the crazy strict Australian quarantine to wait to be met by a complete stranger, a friend of my godfather’s who I knew very little about. After a few minutes I was met by two identical twins, Nad and Sal who took me in a real car! It wasn’t a tuk tuk, or a songthaew, or a Bangkok taxi or anything. A REAL car! Weird.
Then they drove me back to a real house! Where I met Joh, Nad’s girlfriend, and India, they’re lovable Golden Labrador. It was all very….normal. I haven’t had normal since I left London back in mid-October, so it was all quite a shock. I napped in a double bed with a duvet and everything! Then when I got up, I watched TV on this HUGE widescreen and was reminded of the joys of cable.
After that, Sal took me to a mall! Like the ones I go to in the States, with a food court and everything, where I was overwhelmed by choices of food and I found myself wanting ANYTHING but Thai food! There was a Thai stand, but I was surprised to find how little I wanted to go near it. However, to ease myself in to all this normal food, I did have an Indian curry. Baby steps.
After my re-introduction to the Western way of life, Joh took me on a quick driving tour of Sydney where the sight of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House really made me realize where I was. Australia!! We met Nad for a drink and some dinner at the Opera House bar sitting outside under a heat lamp with the lights of the Harbour Bridge behind us. Not bad.
I spent the next few days seeing some of the sights with Will and Will, my friends from Koh Pha Ngan, my good friend Lisa from my days as a Thai English teacher who now works as a nanny here in Oz, and Mike, an Irish guy who I ran in to several times on my travels through Laos and Cambodia, now living and working in Oz himself on a one year visa.
I had lunch with Nad and Sal in Darling Harbour, where I also watched fireworks on jet skis with Mike and some friends. I went to The Rocks market with Lisa after an AMAZING buffet lunch with her in the revolving restaurant in the Sydney Tower where I was able to look over all of the city on a perfectly clear day. Oh yea, and I ate barbequed kangaroo. Never thought I’d say THAT sentence. I saw Manly Beach and the surrounding area with Nad and Joh, and went to the Taronga Zoo with the Wills.
I also experienced nightlife being back in a city. My first night out was with the Wills. I hadn’t quite adjusted to wearing shoes at that point, and I in fact didn’t really own any except some unimpressive sandals. My friend Bella had given me her sandals that were slightly nicer, so I wore those but since they were the closest thing to shoes I’d worn in quite some time they immediately started to hurt. I carried them around, putting them on to get in the door of bars and then promptly taking them off again. I got some looks for walking around Sydney barefoot, but not much I was going to do about it. I bought a pair of nice warm suede boots the next day, don’t worry.
After about a week of this city life, I joined the Wills on an overnight bus up north to Byron Bay. I planned to go there for a few days then head up to try to see Frasier Island, the Whitsundays and whatever else I had time for. My plans changed slightly once we got there thanks to Mother Nature, but that’s a story for my next entry!