I didn’t really like the first 24 hours as it just looked like we'd arrived home to a rough part of London/Edinburgh/Manchester, especially with suburbs of identical names, and our glimpses of the harbour bridge during our transfer from the airport were underwhelming.
The backpacker area (Kings Cross) we stayed in was full of rough looking alchies, druggies, & prostitutes. Not seen anyone looking that washed-out for a long time. Saturday night was carnage. Quite the opposite of Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. We’re also back to sharing the pavements with materialistic fashionistas and disrespectful kids looking us up and down at our travelling gear, rather than being respected as different in the aforementioned countries. The cost of living compared to Asia was hard to swallow too. Anyway, the days got better once we got out and about and started to appreciate Sydney the way everyone else seems to!
We headed straight for the Australia Museum, and especially the 'Indigenous Peoples' exhibit which gave us our history fix as well as a well-balanced view of the Aborigine & Torres Straight Islander issues defending their land. The British justified colonisation with some fancy words ("Terra Nullius") backed with force where necessary. The attempted cultural genocide which followed, right up to 1969, made shocking reading. The use of convicts to build the new home land was genius; a nice little loophole in the ban on slavery. The convicts kept getting moved further north as the 'free settlers' moved in to benefit from their work.
The Aussie sense of humour is almost immediately apparent in road signs, business names and advertising. I couldn't help chuckling at the 'Buddha-Bing' take-away restaurant after taking Buddha so seriously for so long, or the over-the-top 'Wrong Way - Turn Back' no-entry signs.
Walking around Mrs Macquaries Point and through the Botanic Gardens to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge on a nice sunny day was amazing, and we continued through the port area to 'The Rocks' to chill out for a bit near the historical (circa 1800-1900) buildings. The Bridge and the Opera House are both great attractions. On another day, we caught the ferry across the harbour to Manly (named after some 'manly' aborigines apparently) and completed the Manly Scenic Walk along the coast. The illuminated city on our return journey in darkness was awesome.
Interesting fact: The Sydney harbour bridge just celebrated its 80th birthday, still as the largest single-span steel bridge in the world, which took 1400 men 9 years to build.