Have you heard of Cabramatta? It probably wouldn’t even register on most travellers’ radars. It was only because a couple of family friends had kindly offered me a bed for a few days that I found myself taking a half hour train journey to this Sydney suburb, once again leaving behind backpackerland.
With Sydney’s sprawl ever extending out west, Cabramatta is no longer considered to be on the distant outskirts. It now forms a bubble of activity and bustle within an easy commute of the city centre. I had no expectations, nothing to go on. Excellent.
A walk in from West Cabramatta (the nicer part, apparently, don’t you know?!) to John Street took me half an hour alongside the creek and by the railway. Once I arrived on John Street, I felt as though I’d left behind the Western world and stepped into the Far East.
Signs were in Vietnamese with an English translation, if you were lucky, and I didn’t hear a single word in English. Although there was an eclectic mix of fashions with much Western influence, there was barely a Caucasian in sight. Fabrics were stacked high in little shops, and cafés and restaurants, such as the Loving Hut, advertised exotic, Asian foods. Jangly, high voiced music spilled out from places selling karaoke DVDs, and pinks and yellows and a whole cacophony of colours lined the streets. It was wonderful and confusing all in one.
A few days later I was in Manly sorting out an Australian bank account. ‘Cabramatta?’ asked the girl cashier, ‘It’s a bit, umm, different to here isn’t it?’ Yes, it most certainly is.