Lauren | Feb 3, 2018 | 0
How to Explore Asia, Africa and the Middle East Without Leaving Sydney
This is a guest post from Sydney based blogger Travel with Joanne. Joanne is exploring suburban Sydney by visiting one suburb each fortnight.
Three Sydney Suburbs That Everyone New to the City Needs to Explore
After you have settled into this wonderful city of Sydney, and have seen all of the main touristy sights, it is time to venture further afield and explore the multicultural side of Sydney. Let me introduce you to three suburbs I love to visit.
This suburb, 30km south-west of Sydney, was once best avoided because of its reputation for drug dealing and gang related violence. Today, when you step off the train, those problems are a thing of the past. You are transported into Vietnam.
Shop signs are in Vietnamese, the stores sell a range of Vietnamese produce and the restaurants serve some of the best Vietnamese meals in Sydney. And if you are looking for fabric for anything from happy pants to a wedding dress, Cabramatta is where you’ll find something at a reasonable price.
You could always join one of a number of tours to Cabramatta, but if you are even only slightly adventurous, catch the train, get off at Cabramatta Station and head for John Street. Once you are there, explore. Wander through the grocery stores, buy a freshly squeezed sugarcane juice or an iced coffee. You may have to use sign language as not all shopkeepers speak English, but that is part of the fun. Admire the Pai Lau (gateway) at the entrance to Freedom Plaza. Sit on one of the benches in the Plaza and watch the passing parade. Discover exotic fruits and Asian herbs in the fresh produce stores. Visit the fishmongers where fish are laid out on crates of ice. Bring an esky in case you feel the need to buy meat at great prices or home-grown veggies from the woman sitting on a milk crate against a shop wall.
When hunger strikes, there are many restaurants to choose from. Phó 54 is well known for … well its phó (Vietnamese soup) of course. They are very busy and you can expect to be seated next to locals who are only too happy to talk you through what to order and how to eat it. What a way to immerse yourself in the local culture. Thanh Binh is a restaurant where you can have a more substantial but equally authentic meal.
Cabramatta is well worth the train ride from Sydney. You will return buzzing from the experience.
Auburn is a melting pot of cultures.
There are Turks, Africans, Afghanis and people from the Middle East and Asia with a sprinkling of Anglo Australians. The shops and restaurants reflect the cultures of the people who live in this vibrant suburb. A walk around the shops on either side of the station takes you into a world very different from other suburbs of Sydney.
When I take friends to Auburn, there are a few shops I do not miss. At the Ghazni Bakery in Rawson Street, flat Afghani bread is baked in traditional ovens. Real Turkish Delight is the factory and outlet for the Turkish Delight that you see in shops all over Sydney and Mado Café in Auburn Road is an authentic Turkish restaurant while Kaybar Afghani Restaurant is the place to go for a traditional Afghan meal. If you enjoy sweet and fresh Arabic baklava you are spoilt for choice with more than one bakery to choose from.
Take time to walk up Auburn Road, exploring the shops and getting a feel for the place. Don’t forget to take a couple of shopping bags with you. You are likely to bring home nuts, spices and a few sweet treats for after dinner.
A visit to Auburn is incomplete if you don’t see the inside of The Auburn Gallipoli Mosque. By contacting the Mosque directly, you can arrange a tour for you and a few friends. Otherwise, just turn up and ask at the office if you can have a look. I was made most welcome, shown where to put my shoes and where I should go. Out of respect women should take a scarf and wear appropriate clothing and perhaps don’t arrive during Friday prayers.
A bit of a walk (2.3km) or a 20-minute bus ride from the suburban hub are the Auburn Botanic Gardens. The walk itself is interesting if like me, you enjoy wandering suburban streets eyeing out the houses and gardens. Once at your destination, you can wander through the Japanese Garden, the Zen Garden as well as the fauna reserve. The best time to visit these gardens is in Autumn as the leaves change colour and in Spring when the blossoms are in flower.
Easily accessible by train, a visit to Auburn is one way to experience other cultures without leaving Sydney.
The main reason to visit Blacktown is to experience an authentic and delicious Ethiopian meal. Blue Nile and Abyssinia are located side by side in Main Street. I have enjoyed a meal at both, ordering a combination plate for a richer experience. There you will sit amongst locals who hail from North Africa. Follow their custom by washing your hands in the basin at the back of the restaurant. Use your right hand for eating, first tearing off the injera (traditional bread) and wrapping it around the delicious fillings.
After a filling meal, take a walk up and down the streets where shops reflect the variety of cultures who live in Blacktown. African stores sell brightly coloured fabric, others display traditional Indian clothing. Some offer to give henna tattoos. In the many small grocery stores the ingredients to make dishes from India, Afghanistan and the Middle East line the shelves.
The Blacktown Arts Centre is worth a visit (check first that there is a current exhibition). Pass through the gaming machines at the Workers Club to reach the lift to the fifth floor. There a revolving restaurant, Cucina Locale, provides unobstructed views to the Harbour Bridge in the and the Blue Mountains in the distance. They do high tea as well as lunch and dinner, but check their opening times.
Catching the train to Blacktown from Central will take about an hour from Central.
Make a day of it and immerse yourself in another side of Sydney.