Monday, January 24, 2005

Datapoints Perth 03.

Subject: Perth log Day 01

The thought in the back on my mind: You see those "City of Perth" banners and signs and slogans everywhere. But I am not convinced Perth qualifies as a city yet.

But let us start from the beginning..

Talk about travelling light. My baggage on this trip came in under 10kg. Flight was uneventful. Sunrise was beautiful at 11500m at 970km/h. Full flight was overbooked but I did not get bumped off. Stuck in a middle seat between a restless large man and an old Aborigine lady who was telling me how she had lived in Perth for over 40 years and watched the property prices skyrocketing over the last decade or so.

Had to fill up the arrival card twice when I arrived. Was on automatic-pilot and checked "Box B - visitor or temporary entrant". Scratched that card and did the correct one with "Box A - migrating permanently to Australia". Guess I am now offically an Australia Permanent Resident on immigration records.

Transport to Fremantle was easy. Walk out of the airport, look up a sign board, call the shuttle on my mobile. I was the only cargo on that run. Driver was a cheery Joe (yes, his name was actually Joe!) whom I was jawing with all the way. Turns out he has an English father and had been educated in Europe, speaks Italian, spending most of his teen years travelling Europe. (For the interest of the academically-obsessed Singaporeans reading this entry, the man has a B.A, a M.Bus, and a Grad Dip Ed). Joe works as a trainer (on corporate presentations) at TAFE. December to Feburary is the low season for education. One of the most refreshing things about travelling is that you meet unusual people who cannot be easily pigeonholed.

Arrived in Freo around 8am before the businesses are awake. Wandered around the area looking at used and battered cars selling for A$1999 to A$2999 to the luxury used vehicles at A$10999. And I doubt those were the downpayments deposits.

[ Sidenote: How the maps and official documents spell it "Fremantle" but some of the local business and signboards spell it "Freemantle"? And Freo residents do not look kindly to being lumped as part of Perth. Fremantle is the older of the two areas and is where the old port is. ]

One sunburned hour later, I meet Francine (a chirpy middle aged lady) who I have been emailing about the car arrangements. Is it me, or how do those Australians working frontline counter work be so cheerful on a Monday morning?

The car is crap. But crap in a nicest possible way. It is a tiny compact Suzuki which makes it perfect for navigating cramped city roads. No airconditioning, no power steering, no power windows, no nothing. It looks acceptable if you ignore the peeling paint and looks like it badly needs a good wax and shine detail job. In other words, it is perfect for blending in. And no crooks are are going to bother with such a piece of crap.

So I take the car for a spin. Driving "thataway" generally. And end up at the beach. Typical. Follow my driving instincts and I most likely end up in the ocean or off a cliff.

Driving back to Perth in the hot noon sun really had the sleep deprivation kick in. (I spent the overnight flight watching movies.) Pull out of the two-lane 60km/h-limit Canning highway (can it be called a highway?), stopped under a tree and caught some shuteye. Woke up hot and sweaty to find myself in a posh riverside residential area of East Fremantle, surrounded by your storybook houses with white picket fences and gleaming clean SUVs in multi-car garages.

The room I got at the budget place was basic. More like a cell. 4 metre by 3 metre. Two lights, cupboard, desk, chair, shelf, fan. Storage space allocated in the pantry and fridge. Perfect for someone like me who does not need much. The only thing that annoyed me was an annoying "inspirational" poster that said "Destiny - the future belongs to those who believe in the future of their dream". I took it down and put in face down under the bed. If you are coming to Perth with family and kids, you are going to need something a little less basic.

Showered and crashed. Woke up hungry at around 5pm. Took a drive out in rush hour traffic to get food. What rush hour traffic? Perth is one of the few cities that I can drive through "rush hour traffic" in the middle of the CDB using an unfamilar car and read a map simultaneously while weaving in an out of my lane without anybody horning or yelling profanities at me.

Radio said it was "hazy" but it looks fine to me. The fine dust could have just have been from the road dust in any big city. Big blue skies. Kudos to the volunteer and professional fire crews!

Made my way to Northbridge for my chicken rice date. Had a bit of problem finding the place but got there eventually. And what do I find? Chin Chin Eating house (Australia branch) was closed for renovations until futher notice!

7pm and it is like a dead town here. I understand why all the head-full-of-big-dreams young people desiring excitement immediately head for east coast cities as soon as they graduate. Perth may call herself a city the same way a 18 year old teenager wants to be called a young woman. To paraphrase that terrible (Britney Spears?) pop song: "Perth is no longer a town, but not yet a city".

Perth CDB is so small that a lack of attention would have you driving out of the CDB area. Literally. Decided to dump the car back at the hostel and leg it instead. The free CAT (Central Area Transit) buses crisscross the city, but operate until 6.20pm on weekdays. Still the CBD is small enough to walk. And it is blessedly flat land (unlike Sydney). Easy to walk. And a sensible layout of roads unlike the Melbourne CBD.

Walked around Forrest Chase mall, Hay Street mall, Murray Street mall and the central retail areas. The shops were all closed at past 9 pm but it was not like I was planning to do any shopping anyway. Besides the lack of tourists makes it a much more peaceful stroll. Walked by the river and watched the ferries docked for the night. Walked and watched the seagulls who must have insomia. Walked and watched the pretty lights across the river on the south side of the Swan.

Walked right into a late-night internet cafe where I started on this entry. Left at midnight when it closed and continued my random walk through the silent sleeping Perth CBD. Walked and walked and walked until my thigh and cafe muscles protested. Stumbled back into the hostel only past 3am.

Not a bad first day indeed.

PS Miss the SO already. Been away for only 24 hours or so but feels longer than that.

[ Entry posted at around 6pm on Tuesday 25th Jan 2005. Post date has been backdated to last night. ]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

and so you finally update us all; who have been waiting to find out what you may discover down under.
With bated breath, we waited.
Please do continue to update potential "quitter" like myself who longs for the true freedom & to realise a dream away from stuffy here.
Thanks for your updates & keep them coming.

January 25, 2005 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just wanted to tell u, i miss my guy in Perth immensely. I've graduated while he still has 2 more yrs left, and I can't get any work visa... and I was thinking of getting into the air stewardess line just to see him more often in a month. I am feeling very depressed althoe I will get to see him in 5 days time.. to attend my graduation... cos I know that there'll be a day when I have to fly away... and we never know when we'll meet again... even once a month is lucky enuff.. shud I be able to afford it. being a student - poor, working - richer but less time off to spend with him. sigh.

March 02, 2005 12:38 AM  

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