Friday, August 18, 2023

Let's Talk About Perth

Perth is said to be the remotest capital city in the world. Well, I can attest to that! Our flight from Hong Kong showed us the blue skies above the West Philippine Sea, followed by the most beautiful sunset over Borneo Island. During the last three hours of our flight, small towns punctuated the inky dark landscape from my view as dusk turned to night. Even on our final approach, I couldn't discern a metropolis or cityscape as it was too dark outside. That's how remote Perth is. Several assumptions about Perth had been plaguing my mind at that time as I exited the airport terminal. But, as I embark on this solo trip, I'll see to it that whatever the outcome of this trip, I shall embrace it wholeheartedly.

Or so I thought. Join me as I explore Perth, Western Australia. 

I've been to Australia several times already. Usually, I fly to either Sydney or Melbourne with a few side trips to nearby towns. I am familiar with the Aussie lifestyle, but I still got off guard when I visited Perth. You see, despite being the home of 2.25 million people and the capital of Western Australia, it is still a sleepy city. On my first day, I went around the CBD area to acclimatize to my neighborhood. I chose to stay right in the heart of Perth for convenience. I visited the Bell Tower, Western Australia State Library, and Perth's Elizabeth Quay and walked around the downtown area. Most of the shops and grocery stores close at 5 PM. Some coffee shops in the CBD area close as early as 2:30 PM! It was a Sunday, a weekend, so I thought this was normal.

In this day and age, traveling solo is simple. Are you looking for some cafe recommendations? Google has an answer. Are you searching for some highly-recommended activities around the city? Google knows it. It only takes a few taps on your smartphone, and you'll have a curated schedule for the day. Heck, Chat GPT generated my 8-day Perth itinerary! I cannot imagine taking solo trips back in the 90s when I have to rely on old maps, travel guides, and personal testimonials from travelers.

The following day, I woke up late. As the usual travel adage goes, do what the Romans do. I decided to have brunch at a nearby cafe. Brunch is a thing here in Australia, so I had my usual flat white and chicken panini sandwich. Strolling around Perth at 10:30 AM was a sight to see. There were only a few people on the streets, primarily tourists. Perth had a different vibe for someone so used to massive crowds and traffic jams. Time was slow here. I visited Hyde Park and Kings Park Botanic Garden parks to enjoy the laid-back life of Perth. I brought my book, so I hailed a bus to the Northbridge area, stayed at Hyde Park for an hour, and commuted to Kings Park. I took advantage of the weather that time-sunny yet cold at 13 degrees. It will take a miracle for me to do the exact thing in Manila. I'd be drenched with sweat the first five minutes and feel uncomfortable. I'm not too fond of it. I was craving for slower-paced days like this as it allowed me to think and reflect on my life. The last day of being a 32-year-old lad was peaceful and reflective, accompanied by a beautiful sunset.

No matter how perfect your travel plans are, some things are bound to happen, and it's no longer in your control. Ironically, it happened on my 33rd birthday! When I booked my Rottnest Island tour weeks before my birthday trip and the night before my tour, I tried to reach out to the operator since the pick-up point showed in the app and the email confirmation was different. The make a long story short, I waited at the wrong pick-up point, and they left without me. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. It was nine in the morning, but I felt defeated. I was supposed to be at Rottnest Island, appreciating nature and possibly having selfies with the quokkas, but no. I'm sitting on the bench at Elizabeth Quay, sulking. But at 33, I know better. It just made me realize that things sometimes do not go as planned.

I allowed myself to sulk and reconfigure my thoughts for a few more minutes before I finally decided to roam around the CBD area. Then, I found this part that resembled Diagon Alley! London Court is a three and four-level open-roofed shopping arcade in the central business district of Perth, Western Australia. It was built in 1937 by wealthy gold financier and businessman Claude de Bernales for residential and commercial purposes. As a treat for my birthday, I finally gave in and bought a bottle of my favorite perfume, Le Labo Santal 33. Eventually, they gave me a full refund after two days. All is well.

After all the hullabaloos on my birthday, I went for a Swan Valley Wine Tour the next day. We went north of Perth and sampled some of the region's best wines. It was fancy, yet a fascinating tour. It was my first time to experience such a tour, as I have yet to try one in Melbourne or Sydney. Glad I made this trip as I learned more about wine culture! And after 18 glasses of different wine and two glasses of beer, I could still explore Northbridge at night with a friend.

Last June, I celebrated my 10th work anniversary as an air traffic control. True enough, time flies so fast when you are enjoying it. Instead of visiting Cottlesloe Beach (we have many beaches back home, and I bet it's more beautiful than this), I went to the Aviation Heritage Museum of Western Australia. Commuting there was easy, and the ticket cost $15. It houses many military and civilian aircraft, aircraft replicas, and aircraft engines of types that have served in the Royal Australian Air Force or have relevance to aviation in Western Australia. My AVGeek heart was overflowing with joy. It made me realize that I made the right choice of choosing to work in the aviation industry. It was indeed a highlight of my trip.\\

Fremantle was another vibe. Located nineteen kilometers west of Perth CBD at the mouth of Swan River, this city is renowned for its well-preserved architectural heritage, including convict-built structures and hundreds of gold rush-era buildings. It presents a variety and unity of historic buildings and streetscapes. Using limestones to build these ornate façades, the buildings come in various architectural styles. Rapid development following the harbor works led to an Edwardian precinct as merchant and shipping companies built in the west end and on reclaimed land. I stayed at their park, awed by the city's architecture, visited their shipwreck museum (admission is free), and even went to Fremantle Prison's ghost tour at night. I always aim to learn more about my destination's history, heritage, and culture in every travel.

I have been constantly running all my adulthood, especially after finishing my degree at the university. I thought I'd figure out everything in life the moment I had a job and living independently. I have never slowed down, and this rat race has taken a toll on me. At some point, I felt alienated and isolated because of my inner demons. Sometimes, it is okay not to be okay. When we succumb to vulnerability, it doesn’t mean weakness. We learn more about ourselves by acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses. 

The cacophony of a busy city inhibits one’s senses. With open eyes, I could see nothing. I could hear nothing else. When we search for answers, we find them in solitude and quietness. It is in the quiet where we find solace in life. It is in the stillness that we become sincere with ourselves. And in silence, we realize that it has so much to say. The silence was its background; quiet molded it; stillness made it perfect as it filled the world. And that world is Perth.

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