It feels like a couple of weeks now since I was last in Bangkok. Leaving that day I can't remember a whole lot, except it was very straightforward. The airport there is huge but funnily enough I ran into Will and Suze who were flying out to Amsterdam for a few days before returning to Dublin. I knew they would be there around that time but didn't expect to run into them so it was great to be able to kill half an hour having a chat while they had lunch. My flight was even more straight forward. I'm now a huge fan of Quantas. Every flight I've ever taken with them has been superb. The service, the comfort factor (for economy), in-flight entertainment and food were all excellent. I watched a couple of films and took one sleeping tablet but unfortunately I only managed to get an hours rest. I got into Sydney at 6am but couldn't check into my room until 2pm so it was a painful wait before I could finally sleep properly.
It was a little bit strange arriving back into Sydney. I was so used to living in Asia for the past two months it was a bit of a novelty when I got there - mind you after half a day it was like I had never left. I was also half thrilled to get a full search when I landed by one of the security guards along with a long series of questions e.g. why are you here, how long are you here for, who are you staying with, when are you going back to Dublin, how much cash do you have, do you have a job, what job is it etc. etc. I'm a big fan of that Australian airport programme back home on tv that exposes people with drugs or illegal goods so for a change I didn't mind it for once! There were no camera crews unfortunately - I would have been waving at it saying 'hi mom!'. After about 15 minutes of probing they let me through. I had forgotten just how good the transport system is. It is just so simple and I'm normally terrible for getting public transport in a foreign country. A five minute walk brings you to the train and from there it goes straight to the station by my hostel. I think it took about 20 minutes. Compare that to London where it feels like you are walking forever and it can take hours to get into the actual city centre. Or Ireland where there is no train system at all!
I didn't do a whole lot of sightseeing given that I had done it before but I did take a tour of the Opera House. This is my favourite building in the world. It's just stunning to look at. It was great seeing the various concert halls and theatres inside as well getting a full background and history of how the building came to be. It's a good story too with a Danish man who had never been to Australia winning an open competition to design the building. His entry was originally eliminated but when one judge arrived late (from Finland *cough*!), he went through all of the entries that had been discarded, picked this one out and declared it the winner. The rest is history. The designer fell out with the Australian government during the building phase as it was taking a lot longer and costing a lot more money. Unfortunately he resigned and returned to Denmark. Despite being re-employed by the Government in the late 1990s to work on the interior of the building, he never got to return due to poor health and died a couple of years ago. It's weird knowing that the designer never got see his finished work which also happens to be one of the well known and respected buildings in the world. Other sights I took in included the Aquarium at Darling Harbour and Sydney Tower - two attractions I had paid for on a multiple entry last year so they were free to do again.
I had three major nights out over the past week - Friday, Saturday and Tuesday. Saturday was the main event with Mardi Gras taking place. You don't realise how huge this thing actually is until you're at it. There must have been at least 50,000 people lined up and down the streets, all from various walks of life. The parade itself was excellent. It featured everything - weird, wacky, funny, sexy and at times heart moving floats. So many gay specific minority crowds were accounted for: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, European, parents/families, religious, firemen, police and people with disabilities. It was one big party and everyone was invited. There was even a float for fag hags!
For a country that is so liberal in terms of gay life, it's astonishing that gay marriage has not yet been granted. This is something the LGBT crowd are fighting very hard for and I have no doubt they will get it within the next few years. Walking up and down the city there were gay people everywhere and many couples holding hands. It was nice being in the majority for a change. My friend Tracy who I stayed with in Brisbane flew down for the weekend and along with my gang we watched the parade and then partied late into the night.
The past week has been brilliant fun. It was great catching up with all my buddies from last year and the few from Ireland that have moved over here. It's such a great life here I really don't blame them. I never thought I would fall in love with a city but it's kind of hard not to. Everything here is just perfect - from the weather to the people, attractions, city itself, nightlife, entertainment etc. I've been quite sad at the thought of leavig the past two days but I'm pretty sure I'll move over and work here for a year or two at some point in my life. In comparison to Ireland, companies are just crying out for skilled staff here - one friend of mine Orla got her flights paid for and put up in a five star hotel for two weeks when she arrived! Hard life eh?
Tomorrow I head to New Zealand. I fly to Auckland in the morning and will spend a few nights there before booking a Kiwi Experience style bus trip that will take me from the top of the Northern Island to the bottom of the Southern Island. I'll spend three weeks doing it so I'm getting ready for lots more bus trips, sightseeing and meeting new people. I'm a bit weary and apprehensive about Christchurch but luckily that is towards the end of my NZ trip so I will see how it goes and take any official advice given. Either way, I know it's going to be a lot of fun.