Newtown is a suburb close to the heart of Sydney, Australia. At first glance, it struck me as a cowboy town with its colonial style buildings and its laid-back look. As one goes deeper within Newtown though, it becomes more apparent that this is a hippie town similar to Camden Town in London, with one exception – the streets don’t smell of weed.
Organic food markets, vegetarian restaurants, oriental furniture shops and “exotic” restaurants serving African, Mexican and Nepalese cuisine line King’s Street, which passes for the main street of Newtown. Thai restaurants are especially numerous – Newtown likely has the highest concentration of Thai restaurants in Sydney, if not the whole of Australia. There is the occasional busker and beggar. And even open air markets selling amulets and CDs.
Newtown was established as a residential and farming area in the early 19th century. The name of the suburb came from a general store that was set up in the area. After the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, Newtown became increasingly rundown; until it was revived in the 1970s as students from the nearby Sydney University flocked to Newtown for its relatively cheap rent. It became known as a bohemian center with a rising gay and lesbian population.
True to the Newtown spirit, I had dinner at a vegetarian Thai restaurant named the Green Palace. I have had Thai and vegetarian before, but never the two together. It turned out to be surprisingly good – the staff were polite and friendly; and despite the restaurant being packed, the waitress took my order within minutes of me sitting down. My main dish was spicy fried rice with “duck” made out of soy. Don’t give me that face! – it actually tastes close to the real thing, with a softer texture. The Thai spices, as usual, was impeccable.
Just as I was about to finish up, my dessert comes up piping hot onto my table. Coconut cream with real coconut flesh covered pandan flavored sago beneath, with the occasional corn tucked away. Sago is mainly eaten in Southeast Asia and comes from tropical palm trees.
Party-goers will crowd the clubs and the streets at night but I call it a day.