Saturday, November 3, 2012
Memoir from Down Under - Perth Chapter 1
The holiday season came a little late for us this year. We had to properly plan for a longer school holiday session to ensure that our son won’t be too tired once we return from our overseas getaway. This year, we made our way to the land down under - the west side i.e. Perth. It has always been my dream to visit Australia and this year we made it possible. It just so happen that I have friends residing in Perth and that made the whole journey more exciting.
It was June, and it’s early winter time in Perth. Winter in Perth can be very mild with temperature ranging from 10 to 20 degree Celsius. Although it could drop below 10 degrees at night, it’s still a pleasant time to visit Perth. In fact it was just perfect for us as we were experiencing a very hot and humid season in Malaysia. Flying from Changi International Airport Singapore this time via Tiger Airways, we reached Perth after 5 hours and 20 minutes in thin air. Arriving at 9.30pm local time, the weather was about 10 degree Celsius, chilly yet a clear night. My friend’s hubby then drove us to their residence at Bertram Heights, about 30 minutes away from Perth International Airport. We had earlier made an arrangement with Bentley Hotel but this lovely duo insisted that we should just stay with them throughout our visit. It was really a lovely idea, so there we were at Bertram, in a cosy residence of a dear friend, Jaslina & Ariff.
Day 1: City & Cruise
The first day we were on our own. So we took the TransPerth train from Kwinana Station, the nearest stop from Bertram, to Perth Underground (the city). It was about 6 stops away but the TransPerth was very reliable and very accurate on timing. It took us less than half an hour to reach the city. Guided with a map we took from the airport, we started our discovery on foot as we reached Perth City during the peak hour of Thursday morning.
As we came out from the Perth Underground Station, we strolled along a row of shops and boutiques at Murray Street Mall. It was a long stretch with lots and lots of shops displaying local and international brands. We then made a stop at the Visitor Center at William Street and booked our tickets for a cruise on the Swan River via the Captain Cook Cruise.
We were in time for the next cruise but we had to briskly walk to Barrack Jetty where the cruise was already waiting for us. We took a 2-way cruise from Perth City to Fremantle and back. It took us about 2 hours and 30 minutes, to and fro. The journey presented us with an arresting eye-opener of the naturally beautiful Perth’s riverside views which were replete with magnificent looking homes and famous yacht clubs. And with the weather like that, I wish I could have stayed on the cruise for all day long :)
It was really a delightful experience. We had coffee on board and made friends from abroad. One thing that left an indelible mark in my memory was when we saw a couple of beautiful dolphins trailing along our boat, and making a jump out of the water. It was indeed a sight you don’t get to see every single day. For my son, it was a something that really made his day (even for the whole trip down to Perth)! He has this unsinkable believe that if our boat is trailed by dolphins, it would be a lucky day for us! And indeed it was for us!
When we reached Perth City, it was almost 3pm. We made a quick visit to the Bell Tower, a large glass tower shaped like a thin pyramid that housed a set of bells with an observation deck that provided scenic views of the city. It was located at the Barrack Square right on the Swan River foreshore, near the Perth Old Port. We then took a free bus (the Blue C.A.T) and made our way back to the city for lunch. As my son requested for chicken rice, we had to make a stop at Indah Restaurant, an Indonesian halal food for lunch. I must admit that the food was a little pricey, but the provisions were sufficient enough to fill up our empty stomachs.
And yes, about the ‘free bus ride’, I must tell you that I was quite thrilled to know that within the city area, Perth provided 3 sets of bus services (i.e. Blue, Red and Yellow C.A.T – Central Area Transit) absolutely free for all. So if you need to get yourself around, just jump on the bus and make your way to the place without spending any penny. If you are not too sure where to go, there is a map on every bus stop showing you the route. The bus timing is so accurate, you won’t mind waiting. The longest waiting time we had to endure was 6 minutes. Compare this to anywhere in Malaysia.
At night, after dinner, my friend drove us to Rockingham Shopping Mall where we shopped for groceries at Coles. Bringing in food into Australia can be a bit tricky. There are a lot of rules and regulations about bringing in food items into the country. The customs will check thoroughly on what you bring along and what you have to declare. No dairy products, no fruits, no nuts, etc. There were more NOs than YES. So, to avoid all the hassle during arrival and face the customary Immigration and Customs procedures, we decided not to bring any food and just buy all that we need in Perth.
Anyway, I love shopping at Coles. There were products you can’t find in Malaysia. And their dairy products, they were all freshly and locally made in Australia. But we have to properly read the ingredients, many of the products contained gelatine and flavours derived from swine. So, what did we get for ourselves? Definitely cereals for my son, wheet-bix for Mr. Hubby, milk and juices, biscuits, chocolates, potato chips, vitamins, and a pie! Yup, I really had to try their frozen Apple and Mixed Berries Pie. It was seriously scrumptious! We then stopped at Target and K-Mart too, just browsing for more. Relatively, the prices were cheaper than the ones in Malaysia, if you are earning in Aussie Dollars. You can’t quite compare apple to apple. Once you start to convert these prices into Malaysian Ringgit (i.e. multiplying every single digit by 3) you will feel the pinch. Darn! So, never compare.
Day 2 : City & Museum
The next day, we revised our original itinerary a little bit. Instead of heading to Caversham Wildlife Park, we opted for the city again. As advised by my friend, we should go to Caversham together with them, as it was much more convenient and cheaper to drive there rather than taking the public transport. So, we headed back to the city for a free and leisurely stroll.
As we reached the city, we began to explore the lively Hay Street. There, we came across London Court, an alley captured in the settings of the English Tudor, a reminiscence of the bygone British era. It was classically decorated with rows of small shops and intimate cafes intricately reflecting the lifestyles of typical European Cities. For a moment, I felt as though we were not in Perth but Paris, haha! As though I had ever been to Paris..! It is definitely a unique shopping boulevard and I just loved it!
We headed to the Western Australian Museum after we had a quick bite we packed at Ispa Kebab. The free ride via CAT Bus brought us to the museum from Hay St on a windy chilly afternoon.
The museum fee was by virtue of donations. So, you can drop any amount of money in the donation box on your way out. It was a pretty large museum showcasing the colourful histories of the origins of Perth, its thriving mining industry, the Aborigines and the whites, frozen Australian animals and insects, musical instruments and many more exciting discoveries.
It was a quiet day in the museum, perhaps because it was on a Friday afternoon. Only a handful of visitors were around, so we had the whole museum to ourselves and slowly walk from one display to another. Just after the museum, we had a quick stop for coffee (and of course juice for my son), at a little café in front of the museum before continuing our sightseeing for the day. We also shopped for some souvenirs and knick-knacks at Wombat Hut, a souvenir shop located at the city.
At night, after a hearty dinner prepared by my lovely friend, Jas, we drove off to the Kings Park for a leisurely walk (and photo-taking). It was a little colder that night, and windy. Kings Park was located on Mount Eliza, the largest inner city park right in the heart of Perth City. Overlooking the spread of skyscrapers of Perth Central Business District (CBD) and a breathtakingly beautiful Swan River, it was definitely a perfect place to relax and unwind. The CBD was brightly enlightened from afar with all buildings beautifully lit-up. We took a lot of photos of this picturesque scenery. My son and her newly-made friends (Jas’s kids) were having a whale of a time running and jumping and rolling on the lush green grass.
We then walked upwards to where the State War Memorial is located. There was a monument at the top of the hill honouring all servicemen and women from Western Australia who died during the Boer War, World War I, World War II, Korean War as well as the Vietnam War.
Let me share some good tips with you. During winter, the night starts early here. The sun goes down at about 5.30 in the evening. And Perth City literally sleeps at 5. Most shops were closed by that hour except the bars, pubs and some eateries. Should you feel the need to do your retail therapy, do it before 5pm I reckon, or you may have to come back the next day. For us, that night, after Kings Park, there was nothing much to see. So, we headed home and prepared ourselves for the next day. :)