Day 1 in Sydney: First day in our new city! (8th March 2011)
You must be wondering how on earth we could pull off bringing 2 check-in bags each on an economy seat fare with Air New Zealand. Well, Jono did a bit of research and it turned out that the 2nd check-in bag only cost an additional $50 and you can pack it up to 23kgs - works out a lot cheaper than shipping the 2nd bag over. I was surprised that we could use the self check-in kiosk to pay for the extra cost and get tags for all the bags - most airlines would require you to pay at the check-in counter. Sweet!
"It's over 23kgs - you need to repack your items," said the Air New Zealand female ground staff that was stationed at the bag drop-off area. Even though our total weight of the bags per person did not exceed 46kgs (23kgs x 2), the lady was adamant that each bag had to be under 23kgs. Argh! We had to reshuffle our items and weighed the bags again - so rushed!
Around 5am, we finally sorted out the baggage drop-off and paid our departure taxes. We can now take a breather from all the rushing and packing from the last couple of days. Aaa...We sat around the airport lounge munching on muesli bars that I packed for us (we got cheap seats for $356.20 for two one-way tickets to Sydney so food wasn't provided) before going through customs, then headed to 'The Rock' (this is the newly expanded international terminal) for flat whites at Mojo. This is probably our last good coffee for a long while since everyone in Wellington keeps telling us that the coffee in Sydney is terrible :(
Left Wellington at 6.30am and arrived in Sydney at 8am. The queue to exit the terminal was ridiculously long - you needed to snake around the baggage collection area till you find the end of the queue. We were in no rush so it didn't matter but I highly doubt travellers who were here on business would be able to attend a 9am meeting on time (and there were quite a few of them too, dressed in business suits and looking rather flustered). Hah, and if you think the queue is over once you got out of the airport, you are wrong. To get a taxi, you had to join another long queue at the sheltered taxi rank where a supervisor was busily directing people to the next available taxi. We were directed to a taxi van given the amount of luggage we had and at 9am, we finally left the airport and headed into the city to Regis On Castlereagh where we would be staying for the week.
Cost us $51.20 for the 45-minute taxi ride. Unfortunately our serviced apartment wasn't ready so we left our luggage bags at reception and headed out to explore our new city. I can't believe I'm finally here, back in Sydney after some 21 years (I came here for a holiday with Mum when I was 8). Took me this long and one Jono later to move to Australia - I guess my last 3 attempts to move to Australia didn't work out because it just wasn't meant to be. But I'm here now and ready to start a brand new chapter in life! I'm really glad I'm not doing it on my own this time round but have Jono with me :) It's going to be exciting, rediscovering Sydney as an adult! And it's a warm 27 degrees too - loving the weather already ;)
We took a walk towards the city's famous Darling Harbour and ended up in the food court in Harbourside Shopping Centre, Darling Harbour's one-stop location for shopping, leisure and dining by the waterfront. It was only 10.30am but we were famished so had an early lunch (technically not early as it would have been 12.30pm in NZ). What a pain - you can't buy a meal under $15 on your credit card so we had to withdraw cash from Jono's NZ credit card to pay for lunch. We didn't carry much Australian dollars since we had transferred a lump sum to our bank in Australia which we set up before we came over and were due to collect our bank cards later today. Still, you would think most places would accept credit cards...
Back to Regis On Castlereagh to check in and took a nap till around 12.30pm, showered and then headed out again to the bank located a couple of blocks away from where we stayed. To be honest, our accommodation didn't turn out as nice as what we saw on their website. We had an oldish-looking studio apartment that needed a bit more TLC and revamp. It was pretty basic with enough space for us to unpack our bags, a tiny kitchen (self-catering), bathroom and no laundry facility. It was next to the railway tracks and there was a construction site around the corner - even with the AC cranked up and living on the 11th floor, we could still hear the sound of drilling coming from downstairs. I sure hope we'll find our own place soon! I've been asking friends who live Sydney for advice on where to find rental properties and which areas to live in (avoid the west side and Redfern, I was told) and it seems the site everyone uses is Domain. Need to start our search when we get back later!
"Hello?" I answered my mobile phone which was still connected to my NZ number. Who would be calling me from Australia?? Turned out it was the recruiter from M&T Resources (M&T stands for Management & Technology) calling me up to confirm an interview tomorrow morning. What?! I've only landed a few hours ago and now I've got an interview to attend??? Wow, is the job market in Sydney really THAT competitive? I had a Skype interview for a database analyst position yesterday (the day BEFORE I arrived in Sydney and I clearly told the interviewer I would arrive today) and now this. I don't even know where the heck the interview location is - I've just got here! "Don't worry, I'll give you directions to North Sydney when you come see me tomorrow," assured Hayden Lines, the recruiter whom I've spoken to over a week ago when he first contacted me after reviewing my CV for a data warehouse position he had advertised on SEEK. Babe, I've got an interview tomorrow - I need you to coming along with me so I won't get lost on my own in this big city!
Finally left Regis at 1.30pm and headed to National Australia Bank (NAB) on Liverpool St to meet banking consultant Vinod. NAB is one of the four largest financial institution in Australia and we chose them purely because we were able to open a bank account while living overseas, simply filling up an online form. Our funds were transferred across last week when we received our bank account numbers and all we needed to do now in order to access the money is provide the bank with proof of identity and our bank cards would be issued to us on the spot. The account type we got was called NAB Classic Banking (equivalent to the transaction or cheque account in NZ banks though here, the cheque account is redundant and they use the savings account instead i.e. you need to select the SAV button when using the bank card at ATMs and on EFTPOS machines) which doesn't incur any monthly fee, regardless how we bank (use of another bank's ATM, international transaction and overdraft fees still applies). We learnt from Vinod that we could also get a Visa Debit card with our accounts so requested for the additional cards ordered in for us. This will come in handy should we need to purchase items online, even if we first need available funds in the bank (this is a debit card so no funds = no zap). Oh, and it has this payWave facility so you only need to 'wave' the card on the contactless reader for purchases under $100 and the transaction is complete - no pins or signature required. How cool is that!
Left the bank and went in search for an Optus store to get ourselves new SIM cards for our phones. Cost us $30 each for a pre-paid starter pack which included $30 credit, unlimited SMS and 500MB data that expires in 30 days. Sounds like a pretty good deal for only $30 per month :) Ok, so we now have new mobile numbers and the GPS on our phones are working - yes! I'll need this when job-hunting while Jono's at work.
We stopped by at e-Bluetooth Internet Cafe on Liverpool St on the way back to Regis to sort out a few things online and then popped in to have coffee and cake at LoveBite. A chic cafe that is quite empty at 3.45pm (whereas when we passed by this morning, it was packed and had a queue from the counter onto the footpath). Cost us $10.50 for our shared cake and two flat whites - the coffee isn't that bad as everyone warned us. Perhaps a tad too much water but was still alright and drinkable.
Back at the studio apartment and we started looking for houses on Domain, noting down viewing times and locations for properties that seem to meet our criteria - minimum 1-bedroom place with internal laundry, under $500 per week, near the city and easy commute to work - looks like we have quite a few to check out this week. Broadband internet was available via Ethernet cable in our studio for $10 a day which was reasonably cheap.
Cheryl gave us a Lonely Planet Sydney (City Travel Guide) as a gift for our move so we used it to decide where to have dinner this evening. We settled for Vietnamese and around 7.30pm, we went in search for the restaurant that was supposedly located on Thomas St (about 4 blocks from we are staying) in Haymarket. After two trips up and down the street and still no luck finding the place, we ended up in a Vietnamese restaurant on George St named Pasteur. Definitely not a place of ambience with the noise, slippery floors, white fluorescent lighting and tables packed up so closely to maximise the number of customers in the restaurant. However, it was quite busy and bowls of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and plates of basil and bean sprouts kept coming out from the kitchen. "Shall we try it?" I asked Jono and we decided to give it a go. Busy should mean good food, right?
For $27 (they take cash only), we had a large beef noodle soup for Jono, a small chicken noodle soup for me and 2 glasses of coconut juice (Chinese tea was complimentary). Mmm, the soup was YUM! It was just like the one Claus took us to in Melbourne last year. I don't care if the place looks terrible - the pho is great and I'm sure we'll be coming back here quite often!
Walking back to our apartment, we saw several restaurants in the vicinity that were packed and had insane queues outside (the queues were blocking the footpath). Seriously, the food is THAT awesome that it is worth the wait?? I think it'll take me a while to adjust to the idea of queuing like that for food, and just the sheer amount of people living in this city. I've gone from a capital city in NZ to a city that has the same population as the whole of NZ - it is going to take quite a lot of getting use to...
You know, given it's only our first day in Sydney, I have to say we've been very productive and got a lot of important things sorted out today. Hopefully I'll secure a job soon - it is my biggest worry, coming to Sydney with no job (I did start my job hunt once I handed in my resignation) and even though Jono is happy to support me while I'm looking for a job, I wouldn't want it to be dependant on him financially for too long. Well, let's see what comes out of my interview tomorrow. Eeks, I can't believe I have an interview tomorrow!