You get a very different perspective on Australia if you cross the planet in stages and take your sweet time getting here. Flying from London to Sydney with a compulsory stopover in Shanghai or Kuala Lumpur isn't enough to build an anthropogeographical map of the world and its people in your mind that can be utterly demolished when you land in this far-off country, inexplicably run by white people. What the hell are they doing here?
I've visited plenty of fallen colonies in the last couple of years, some of which have only shaken off the European influence relatively recently, but this is the first one I've been to where they stayed for keeps (I haven't discovered America yet). After working my way through East Asia and noticing subtle marks of ancient colonisation and migration - Chinese-hybrid Thais, Malaysia's migratory melting pot, the malleable Buddhist faith - it's very strange to head south and see white people where you'd expect people to be darker than that.
Admittedly, most of them are slightly tanned. And - get this - they only speak bloody English too! Or a close approximation anyway.
Since I'm not an extraterrestrial visiting this planet for the first time and I do have an education, I understand why the situation is different Down Under compared to Up There. If the indigenous population had a more established society when Captain Cook arrived, rather than having their development unfairly stilted by their isolation from predators like a doomed dodo, I'm sure the Australia of today (which wouldn't be called Australia) would be another independent former colony, freed from its temporary bonds and back in the control of its indigenous people with the odd crumbling church and courthouse here and there as a reminder of those embarrassing times, a new corrupt government, a dangerous automotive industry and a comparative dearth of human rights. That's what my tours of the former colonies have taught me, anyway.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it was a good thing that white people came and wiped out most of the aboriginal population with smallpox before oppressing them in other ways - for the record, I actually think those were bad things. Still, it's nice to be in a place where everything works for a change.
Maybe I have some adopted homesickness for Asia. In my mind, this is what 'people' look like now. (Obviously distinguishable by nationality and not just an amorphous 'Asian' mass. No).
Look, I'm just visiting. I wouldn't have spent two years in South East Asia if I didn't enjoy it, and while there wasn't any feeling of homecoming when I returned to the English-speaking world last month, it's always comforting when I come across a country where traffic lights actually mean something, people don't gawp at me in the street and it's okay to be gay or a woman (or both). And I'm also very glad I felt similar comfort when I visited the similarly developed but distinctly non-European Japan and South Korea too, so I don't have to worry that I'm some sort of racist. And because this is relatively close to Asia, there's a load of people from those countries employed in all types of jobs, so I can be relieved that Australia isn't racist too (the same sadly can't be said for Japan and Korea's immigration policies).
It's just a bit weird being here, alright? I don't really know what I think. Let's just enjoy my uncontroversial tourist snaps.
Compulsory photo. Like most iconic landmarks (the pyramids included), the Sydney Opera House is ever so slightly smaller than I expected
Not the smooth porcelain finish I expected either
Sydney Harbour Bridge, obviously. Sixteen workers died building this thing, which is a pathetic headcount compared to other bridges I've seen. Try harder next time, Australia!
Circular Quay, which isn't actually a circle. How would the boats get out?
Luna Park, a needlessly creepy vintage fun fair that's somehow been allowed to survive. It's the sort of place I genuinely have nightmares about
Bondi Beach, one of the world's most popular beaches. I do not get it
Sydney Observatory is more my kind of place. Boring and unpopular
Calling this place Chinatown feels overly generous and inaccurate. 'Asiastreet' would be more appropriate, as they bundle the Japanese, Korean and Thai restaurants here too. It's all Chinese, right?
In Kuala Lumpur, the monorail feels futuristic.
In Sydney, it feels like a retro relic
Something weird or clever at the Royal Botanical Gardens
I didn't get my hopes up for seeing kangaroos or koalas in the city, but no one even told me about the massive ibises. I love 'em
Everything's bigger in Australia (Darling Harbour)
Fountain and... one of those temple-type buildings the white people have
(St Mary's Cathedral)
(St Mary's Cathedral)
ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park (no, not that one)
I was listening to a paranoid David Icke lecture on my MP3 player that mentioned this statue and explained its supposed Illuminati symbolism in detail, just a short time before I saw it for myself. Coincidence? Is anything coincidence in this holographic Matrix prison we inhabit?
More screwballs speak their brains. As Oliver noted, it would be easier to take the guy on the left seriously in his anti-establishment diatribes if the top keyword on his sandwich board wasn't 'Zionist.' And if he wasn't doing what appeared to be a Nazi salute
Kangaroo bollocks. Show someone you care about them and hate animals this Christmas