Sydney’s Melting Pot – A Stroll Through Sydney’s Diverse People & Places

Many large cities all over the World are home to a Chinatown. Sydney has one of these too and on this walk we also discover a range of other people and cultures – all who have impacted the development of the city.

Join me for a short walk and a smallish dose of diversity and history…

Today’s chosen route follows another map in the Creative City Sydney series. This one is called Community – History Walk Sydney’s Diverse People.

Here are the Nuts and Bolts of this little walk:

  • Official Distance: approximately 3.5km.
  • Time: Allow 1-1.5hrs.
  • Location: The route covers about five blocks at the southern end of the Sydney CBD.
  • Terrain: The path sticks to footpaths the whole way.
  • What to Pack: Nothing special is required, although you may need your wallet to sample some delicious yum cha if you are strolling close to lunchtime.

General Comments:

  • I am going to say up front that I was a tad disappointed with this walk/route. I have truly enjoyed the other maps/routes in this series, but this one left me flat or at least, feeling a bit ‘ho hum’.  While the map includes some interesting information about the historic sites, many of the sites have been so altered, so modernised and sanitised, that the essence of their character has been lost. As the aim of this walk was to highlight the diversity of the people of Sydney, to make that really standout, the buildings needed to reflect that diversity too. On the whole, that just didn’t happen.

My feelings of ambivalence may be a fault of my own perception, as I walked the streets in the early morning and much of the area was only just coming to life. Even the normally bustling and hustling Chinatown area was quiet with only a few sleepy workers in pursuit of coffee. No doubt this area would have a very different vibe at night time.

  • Haymarket has been designated a market area in Sydney since the 1830s. Originally home to the early cattle and hay markets located on what was then the very edge of the city, the range of produce for sale expanded to include fruit and vegetables grown by Chinese market gardeners. The Chinese farmers would travel to the city and overnight in the neighbourhood, and eventually a Chinatown was established with boarding houses, shops and cookhouses to support them.

I do admit to doing a double-take at the many signs in Chinese and other Asian languages. Here we are in downtown Sydney, Australia and the English language has definitely taken a back seat. No doubt it is the same in other Chinatowns and it is nothing if not authentic.

  • The Haymarket area is dominated by the large Paddy’s Market building which houses, on the ground floor, the now highly sanitised remnants of historical market activity. The rough and roaring colour of a previous time has been replaced by attractive fruit and vegetable displays, with a strong emphasis on Asian fruits and vegetables. Not that I am complaining about cleanliness or orderliness. The quality and hygiene of these markets would be far superior to anything experienced by much earlier shoppers.
  • The walking guide we are following today was printed in 2015 and I suspect that this part of Sydney has grown dramatically and is even more diverse now. Once upon a time you could step off the footpath and into the Spanish Club, but today this area features more Thai and Korean businesses, adding diversity and difference to a ‘blanket’ Chinatown experience.

Mea culpa, but again, I expected more. I thought the walk would focus on more nationalities and in more detail. It only touches briefly on the indigenous history that underpins this whole area and, too often, quickly reverts to colonial architecture such as old churches and the Town Hall. While these are beautiful and historic features, I thought it was a bit of a lost opportunity not to share more fascinating stories about the large number of cultures who put their stamp on this part of Sydney.

I am wondering if a guided tour, with a live guide rather than a paper map, would be better? Even a themed tour, such as a food tour, may bring the true diversity of the area and its people to life?

Don’t get me wrong, any walk is a good walk. I guess I was just hungry for more. Next time I will follow my tummy and taste buds rather than a piece of paper!

Sydney Town Hall with purple jacaranda
Sydney Town Hall

Where have you been that really celebrates the people?

#sydneywalks #travelinspo #shortwalks #historywalks #chinatown #sydneyschinatown #diversepeople #haymarket #thespanishclub #paddysmarket #daywalks #marketgardens #chineseaustralians #colonialhistory

20 thoughts on “Sydney’s Melting Pot – A Stroll Through Sydney’s Diverse People & Places

  1. I didn’t see much that would indicate it was a Chinatown apart from the touristy arch. What did take my interest was the lovely architecture softened by the Jacaranda tree. I am sure a guide retelling stories would captivate a visitors imagination.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, maybe it was the eye of the beholder that was at fault rather than the stories that the route held if I had patience to dig for them.

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      1. I think my first comment was a tad harsh. Any walk always has a positive when we look back after finishing. I do enjoy reading your posts about walking, Mel 😊

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thanks for the feedback, Suzanne. I enjoy my strolls with you through the Land of the Long White Cloud too. You live in a magical part of the World. A tad damp, but still magical! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your honesty here as we take the stroll with you. I sometimes struggle to frame this well in my own blog when an experience hasn’t lived up to expectations but you have crafted this beautifully. And yes, any walk is a good walk in the end 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for your kind words. I believe there is no point in setting up false expectations. I certainly started this walk with high ones as the other maps had been so enjoyable. Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

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  3. Too bad it wasn’t what you were hoping for. Many of our Chinatowns, Greek Town, Little Italy etc are really just a collection of restaurants too so make a great place to eat, but not really a cultural experience. Hopefully your next walk will be better. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there is always the next one to look forward to. Thanks, Maggie

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I live near Philadelphia, in the States. Philadelphia also has a Chinatown. It’s pretty small, but is definitely authentic.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can understand that you might have been a little disappointed in the walk (or what you expected and didn’t see) … but still, you took beautiful photos, some of the buildings are truly beautiful. We also have quite a few China towns here in SA, but can you believe I’ve never visited one – maybe I’ll have to do that one day to see how authentic it is.

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    1. Yes, do that so we can compare notes. No doubt your Chinatown would have an African spin on it rather than an Aussie one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So, it will probably be known as “Chinacan” …. China + African 😉

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        1. ChinAfric? Africhin? Nah, better just stick to Chinatown! 😊

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  6. Paddy’s Market was one of the first places my son took me to. I thought it was a bit scruffy tbh but I am going back a good 20 years. Never seen the YININMADYEMI memorial, it’s quite something. I like the Chinese Garden of Friendship which feels authentic to me. And Marrickville a inner Sydney suburb seemed very multicultural. The best Chinatown I have visited is in San Francisco.

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    1. Maybe the Sydney one is too small to retain its own strong sense of identity? It is more of an add on to the Sydney CBD? No doubt the San Francisco and New York ones would feel like you are stepping into another world.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Mel, I enjoyed this post. It sparked some memories of my time in Sydney thirty years ago, having weekend ‘yum cha’ in Chinatown and remembering my grandmother loved visiting Paddy’s Market. I have a photo from that time of the Jacaranda tree outside the Town Hall, good to see it’s still blooming. Thanks again for a walk down memory lane!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s my pleasure, Rich. Thanks so much for your kind words. Happy to go wandering down memory lane anytime. Mel

      Liked by 1 person

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