| Part 2: Brisbane, Sydney
01.01: KL ->
Acacia B&B, Brisbane. 95 AUD (+ 10
AUD for the Internet, for a total of 105 AUD) for a simple room with
A/C, TV, a fridge, water boiler and attached toilet with shower. Better
if I don't comment on the room. The shower is very bad: a very thin jet
of water comes out. Difficult to adjust the temperature (it's always
either too cold or too hot) and it takes for ever to rinse away the
shower gel. The A/C is only one block (as opposed to the A/C units in
Malaysia, whose compressor is separate), therefore very noisy. The
location is good, it's just that for this price in Malaysia you would
get a nice room in a four star hotel.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a very
thin clouds layer in the Gold Coast. Surprisingly already hot in the
early morning - it's not that hot in Malaysia in the early morning.
Mostly overcast in the afternoon in Brisbane, with some blue sky in the
early afternoon. Quite hot.
The plane lands on time at 7:40am local time in the airport of
Coolangatta (Australia). I retrieve the luggage very quickly and am one
of the first to go through immigration. Some questions regarding what I
am going to do in Australia and what my job exactly is, then I go
through customs. Here the customs officer opens all my bags, carefully
searches everything. She complains that I didn't declare the medicines
I carry with me for personal use. Which seems strange because all
travellers carry some medicines with them (headache, antiacid, aspirin
etc.). I've travelled to 50 countries so far and this is the first time
somebody is rummaging so throuroughly my luggage and
The Coolangatta airport is actually not much of an airport. Despite the
hot climate it has no air conditioning. It is quite small and only has
one ATM. No travel agency where you can book a hotel. No free Internet
access, just two Internet terminals for whích you need coins.
I find the ATM and get some cash (the max. amount which this ATM gives
is AUD 400). Then I spot a grocery store which sells prepaid SIM cards
for GSM mobile phones. After some discussion I purchase a Vodafone
prepaid card for AUD 9.95 (comes with no airtime) and AUD 20 of
airtime. Then surprisingly I'm unable to use the phone and put the
airtime on it. Some discussion with the shop and it turns out that I
have to activate the SIM card. Can they do it for me? No they can't, I
have to call Vodafone customer support. But that number doesn't work.
They suggest that I activate the card through the Internet. Fine, but
both Internet terminals are occupied, so I switch on the computer and
see if there is a WLAN hotspot. There is one, and for AUD 5 I purchase
30 minutes of airtime, which should suffice to activate the SIM card.
Well, they do not, because the Internet access through this WLAN
hotspot is painfully slow. I have to wait for ever until the pages
load. So I buy a drink, get some coins, then queue up at the Internet
terminals. After some time it's my turn. I proceed through the Vodafone
Australia web page and try to register. I get stuck with the address,
because it refuses to take my address in Germany and insists on an
Australian address, which I do not have. After some time a friendly
Australian fellow gives me his address, which I enter into the system
and finally I can register. But I still can't use the phone, because it
won't let me enter the recharge code number. I can only do it with the
mobile phone by dialling 1511 or 1555, but both service numbers are out
In the meantime it is already 10am, I've lost almost two hours because
of this matter and I'm quite irritated. I get back to the shop and ask
to return the SIM card and a refund, but they refuse. So in the end I
plug my German SIM card into the phone (wanted to avoid this, because
calls will be more expensive and now calls from Germany will be routed
to Australia because I just registered here), call a couple of hotels
and book a room.
Then I look for a way to get to Brisbane. By taxi it is too expensive
(100km to downtown Brisbane as I'm told), so I will take a bus. In fact
it's not one bus, it's two buses and a train. First I take the airport
bus to the bus stop of the bus Nr 765, then at 10:53am I fetch the bus
Nr 765 to Robina station. While on the bus I get an idea of the place.
Great long sandy beaches, lots of rivers, lakes, bays. Tons of sun.
People in beachwear everywhere. Lots of hotels, motels, apartment
complexes, shops, restaurants etc. This seems like the perfect area for
a beach holiday.
At 11:30am we reach tran station of Robina, a small city. I take the
next train, which leaves around 11:45am. I'm finally in the B&B at
1:30pm, well more than five hours after touching down in Gold Coast.
After taking a shower I leave the hotel at 2:20pm. I spend the whole
afternoon walking around in the city and having some food. There is a
dearth of interesting buildings or places. The overwhelming majority of
the buildings in the city are probably less than 30-40 years old. From
an architectural point of view the city is rather boring. I decide that
I'll leave tomorrow for Sydney. I find a food court in a mall, which
however for some strange reason is not open in the evening.
I take a ride in a giant ferris wheel from which you have a panorama
view of Brisbane. The view from the top confirms once again that there
is not much to see in Brisbane. I'm back in the hotel after dinner at
Aspire hotel, Sydney. AUD 149 for a
nice big room with A/C, TV, phone, ironing board + iron, nice elegant
furniture, big attached bathroom with hairdryer, shampoo, shower gel
etc. Four star feeling. The room is not cheap, but certainly worth the
price. What a difference from the B&B I had in Brisbane. Booked
through a travel agent in Brisbane who used quickbeds.com. Additional
AUD 10 for 24h of Internet access in the room (WLAN).
Weather: overcast in Brisbane in the
morning, not too hot, getting warmer around noon. Overcast and cold and
windy in Sydney. Having acclimatised for three weeks in tropical and
hot climates, I have to wear long trousers, warm underwear and a jacket.
I check out of the Acacia B&B at 10:40am. As a first thing I get
more cash. This time the ATM of the ANZ bank next to the B&B allows
me to get a larger amount of cash (AUD 800). Perhaps I should have
withdrawn more than that, because I will spend over AUD 600 in the next
half an hour. Then I walk towards Queen street, the main shopping
street of Brisbane. I had spotted yesterday a travel agency advertising
good prices for flights (Flight Centre). Well, those AUD 75 for a
one-way flight to Sydney aren't available anymore. What I get is a
flight with Quantas for AUD 190 at 3:15pm, more than twice the
advertised fare. I also book a hotel for three nights in Sydney for an
average price around AUD 140. The travel agent uses quickbeds.com to
book the hotel.
In the meantime it's 11:20am and I'll need to catch the 1:41pm train to
the airport, which gives me a bit over two hours to have a lunch and
explore a bit the area. There are no good bakeries in the area (I would
assume in the whole of Brisbane as well). Most bakeries serve pretty
boring stuff, no special bread (like bread made out of multiple cereals
for instance). Lots of muffins, but no mouth-watering food. No French
or French-style bakeries anywhere. There are also no ice-cream
parlours. I guess somebody could open an icecream parlour somewhere
around Queen street and make a big business. From my brief experience
it appears that Australia is a bit deficient on the food sector. Even
the kebab places or Asian food stalls and restaurants are not that
good. Will the situation in Sydney be better?
Around 1pm I fetch the bags in the hotel and walk to the train station.
The train ticket to the airport costs AUD 14. There is no escalator
going downwards to the platform, only in upward direction. To go down
you must take a staircase - a bit tiring with a heavy bag, so I take an
elevator. In any case, the infrastructure is quite poor in this train
station: no A/C, escalators only in one direction.
The train leaves punctually at 1:41pm and arrives on time at 2:04pm at
the domestic terminal of the airport. Then the chaos starts.
Unbelievably huge queue of people at the check-in counters (actually
these are baggage drop-offs, you first have to check in yourself at
computer terminals). It appears that the baggage belt is broken. I've
never experienced an airport with a broken baggage belt before. This is
simply ridicolous. In any airport there are some systems, which may not
break, because otherwise the entire airport shuts down, and one of
these is the baggage belt in the check-in area.
So I queue up. Then after some time there is an announcement "all
passengers on the flight QF 541 proceed to the counters 10-21...".
Apparently they are calling people based on the flight. So I jump the
queue and drop off my baggage at the counter. The flight takes off on
time and arrives in Sydney on time.
The airport in Sydney has seen better days. It's quite old. Everything
works fine, but you can see from the toilets for instance that things
are pretty run down. In fact, an Internet search reveals that the
current terminal was built in 1970. Long walking distance between the
gates and the baggage retrieval area.
Once I have the bag, I go outside and take a taxi. According to my
information the airport is only 8km from downtown Sydney, so the taxi
can't be that expensive. In fact the bill turns out to be AUD 33.50. I
then check in the hotel.
Since it is cold and windy, I get fully dressed with long pants, warm
underwear and a jacket. At 7pm I leave the hotel for a walking tour of
Sydney. I run pretty soon into what seems to be the Chinatown/Asiatown
of Sydney. High concentration of Chinese, Japanese and other Asian
restaurants. Lots of Asian people on the streets, probably many of them
I go to a Japanese restaurant for some food. Surprise, surprise another
guy and me are the only non-Asians in this place. 95% of Asian
customers in this place. Really curious situation. The food is not bad.
After dinner I explore a bit Sydney, walking through the central
skyscraper area. Lots of HUGE and tall, featureless and ugly buildings,
wide streets. Here Sydney is apparently trying to look like a big US
city. Every now and then a colonial style building, but not many of
them. The modern archictecture is boring. Lots of Asians, lots of
Japanese on the streets. Some of them seem to be working here. The
convenience stores, 7/11 etc. are almost all run by Asians. Still,
Sydney is an order of magnitude more interesting than Brisbane. Will
probably spend three full days here.
Plain, no-name bottled water is ridicolously expensive, AUD 3 to 5.50
per bottle of 1.5-2 litres. That is the same price as bottles of
branded softdrinks of the same size, such as coke and sprite for
instance. The same water costs RM 1-2 in Malaysia (AUD 0.5-1) and 40
Euro cents in Germany (80 cents of an AUD). Ice cream is also way to
expensice: AUD 4.40 for one scoop (in Germany you pay the equivalent of
AUD 1.80 for one scoop).
Aspire hotel, Sydney
Weather: overcast and windy the whole
day in Sydney. Less cold than yesterday. In the evening the sky opens
up a bit.
Basically between 12pm and 10:20pm I'm out exploring Sydney. There are
parts of Sydney which are really ugly, such as for instance the area
around the Central Station. What is nice is the area around the St Mary
cathedral, the botanical gardens, the opera house and the rocks. The
ferry to cross the bay costs AUD 5.20 one way. Several weddings going
in the botanical gardens and St Mary cathedral area.
Aspire hotel, Sydney
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole
day. Some clouds in the evening. Warm enough to walk around with shorts
and t-shirt, very windy. Quite cold in the evening in the harbour area.
Finally a nice sunny day with a blue sky. Not being in a hurry, I get
up at 10:30am, book a trip to the Blue Mountains for the next day using
a brochure found in the hotel lobby, have lunch around 1pm, then
shortly before 2pm start exploring Sydney by foot. There is actually no
need to use public transportation, because the central area of Sydney
is relatively compact (everything in this central area is at most 2-3km
away and it is fresh enough to walk.
Around 2:40pm I get into the Sydney observation tower for some
panoramic views of Sydney (entry ticket is AUD 25). Long queue, 20
minutes at the ticket counter + 30-40 minutes to get into the elevator.
Nice view of Sydney from the top, until the ocean.
Shortly after 4pm I'm done with the views and after some shopping in
the souvenir shop I queue up for the lift to go down. Once down again I
continue walking towards the botanical gardens and the Sydney opera
house. Shortly before 6pm the highlight of the day happens. In the
botanical gardens a whole flock of sulphur crested cockatoos
get on a tourist sitting on a bench. These are rare birds which in
Germany perhaps cost 5000 Euro, and here there is an entire flock in
one place. These birds are less than a metre away from me, have no
fear. One cockatoo
flies on my shoulder and refuses to go away. I start walking away, with
this bird stubbornly sitting on my shoulder. Finally after 100 metres
the bird decides that it is time to rejoin its fellows. Tourists laugh
at the sight of a guy walking with a parrot on his shoulder.
I walk towards the opera house. Great light, great atmosphere, lots of
people sitting at cafe tables having a good time. I buy some food at
the circular quay. In the meantime it is 7pm and I slowly start walking
towards Macquarie point, from which there is a good view of the opera
house and the harbour bridge. Once I arrive I wait for the sunset and
go back to the hotel after that.