Sunday, November 09, 2008


I've been lazy and actually put off blogging about Sydney, but this is the first of three posts about Australia. I'll talk about the city in this post, devote a post to the cool animals, and one to the Blue Mountains.

Now the question everyone wants an answer to is "how did you like Sydney?" And I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea: I liked Sydney. But I traveled for more than 24 hours from Germany all the way to the Southern hemisphere. I guess I was hoping -- admittedly totally naively -- for a more unique experience. As it turns out, Sydney is San Francisco with better weather and funny accents and where they drive on the wrong side of the road. There's a pretty bay with a bridge, a big Chinatown, lots of hills, and everything is unreasonably expensive.

Here are a few pictures that Sean took of the Sydney Opera House and the city:

Pretty huh? But, in real life, the Opera House is surprisingly small and not so gleamingly white (the roof is not smooth but constructed with lots of little tiles).

Okay, enough of the complaints. It's a pretty city to walk around, it's got a lot of cool neighborhoods, and (I hear, I wasn't there in summer) some nice beaches. There's a ton of backpackers (I stayed in a 7 story hostel one night) and half of them are German. It also has awesome wildlife -- but I'll save that for my next post.

Instead, let's talk about the important stuff: food. There are two things you can get in Sydney that you can't get in Germany (but, yeah, you could find them in CA).

Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese thing which has spread to the U.S., other parts of Asia, and Australia. If somehow you're unfamiliar with it: it's typically black tea sweetened with milk (usually evaporated or maybe condensed) and with chewy translucent balls of pearl tapioca on the bottom. You drink it through a straw thick enough to fit the pearls. I like it cold, but it can be ordered hot or cold. I'm also craving it right now.

Sean and I spotted a bubble tea place in Chinatown while walking around. Drinks in hand, we walked up the street where we'd seen some benches in a mall. After finishing the tea, we figured we might as well wander through the mall where we just happened upon the sign for this:

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is dumpling heaven. Busloads of Japanese tourists constantly mob the original restaurant in Taipei. I'm sure I waited an hour for a table there and I think the bookstore next door survives solely on overflow business. There are now more than two dozen locations in Asia. There 's one near L.A. and the newest location opened in Sydney, Australia in May. Although there were a lot of people waiting, Din Tai Fung has dealing with crowds down to a science. When we asked for a table, they handed us a menu, an order form and a pencil. We ordered. When we got a table (we shared a big table with a lot of smaller groups) the food came promptly. It's also not a particularly expensive or fancy place.

The thing to get are the steamed pork dumplings -- xiao long bao. Put a xiao long bao on a soup spoon. Use your chopsticks to poke a hole in the very thin but chewy skin (the key component that makes these dumplings better than all the dumplings you've ever had) and let some steam escape (you don't want to burn your mouth). Soup will probably start to seep out of the hole. If you're so inclined, you can slurp it a little bit. Finally, eat the dumpling. Delicious.


Tim said...

"Sydney is San Francisco with better weather and funny accents and where they drive on the wrong side of the road."

haha. sounds pretty nice. beautiful photos, btw

mmm, bubble tea


Jackie said...

but 'brays' is a real word! (I feel betrayed by captcha.)

DY said...

Thanks for the pictures and details about your trip to Sydney.

It's neat to think about Sydney as a another San Francisco.... it helps me get a handle of what it might be like.