Road Trip Australia: Brisbane
It was my first trip to Brisbane, oh wait, no, scratch that - it was my first trip to Queensland ever, and I was as excited as a little boy on Christmas Day when the plane landed in Brisbane.
This year, one of the things I wanted to do was visit my friends interstate, and the proximity of my work in the north of NSW to Brisbane allowed me to drop by for a weekend to visit A, a good friend from high school.
One of the first things I like to do when I am travelling is to take a picture of the local taxis - it highlights something so basic in each city, and yet so different - Melbourne has its yellow taxis while the taxis in Brisbane are orange and white!
(Cheok, HK - Voted Most Likely To Be Easily Amused - Graduating Class of 1997)
There was a pickup bus and its former world-champion of pickup-bus racing driver which brought me to my friend A's place - he lived at the M on Mary Street, just on the fringe of CBD - an excellent location - away from the hustle and bustle, but with the heart of Brisbane right at your doorstep.
It was already late when I arrived, so we went for supper at the only place open in Brisbane on a Friday night - Pancake Cafe, which looked suspiciously like the Pancake Parlour back in Melbourne. It was a good time of catching up with A, and the food was actually not bad!
The next morning, God decided to bless us with a day out of His "Beautiful Saturday Weather" book, and it was perfect for walking around and taking photos:
The iconic Brisbane Conrad Treasury Casino; the bridge to Southbank; Southbank, where the Queensland Performing Arts Centre sits, licking itself clean for the production of CATS
It was quite a walk to our designated breakfast place, and I took in all the sights and sounds of Brisbane as we made our way patiently to this place in the west:
The Gunshop Café -bang for your buck, great shots of coffee, located in the wild, wild west and (insert other groan-inducing gun-slinging puns here). :)
The Gunshop Café on Mollison Street was a local icon for breakfast, and it was filled to the brim this particular morning as locals packed the café, deliberating over hearty bacon and eggs and lattés.
A and I finally decided on the same thing - the savoury chive cornbread with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon - it was a really yummy way to start the day!
Energised, we took in the other sights of Brisbane that morning - our first stop was the lovely Southbank, overlooking the Brisbane river. Southbank has been converted into a wonderful oasis for locals and travellers alike - it houses a fully synthetic beach and also many beautiful structures including the majestic Wheel of Brisbane (cleverly named so because it is shaped like a - you guessed it - wheel) and also sporadic other decorative contraptions.
The beautiful Southbank and Brisbane river - home to the Wheel of Brisbane and Stanley Market. Enlarge to see that cute little self-perpetuating water construct in the left hand corner.
One of the highlights of the area is the bustling Stanley Market - home to artistic odds-and-ends. Here you can get everything from paintings to framed panormaic photographs and an assortment of jewellery as well. Have your cards read by a Tarot reader or consult a fully qualified naturopath. This bohemian market has everything to suit the tastes of the adventurous.
Personally I bought several clever buttons from a button stall, half of which was filled with "I love Twilight" buttons and the other half with "Twilight Sucks!" buttons. I bought 4 buttons: One reads 'Cleverly Disguised As Responsible Adult' (that's me!), another one with Elmo's face on it (for K), the political one reading 'I dream of a better tomorrow where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.' (Why did the chicken cross the road?) and my favourite: 'Rock is dead... Long live papers and scissors!'
We took in more of the surrounding buildings and bridges, and walked ourselves silly that morning. We ended up in the beautiful Botanical Gardens which were home to many local trees and fauna, and witness to the occasional wedding.
Some well-preserved relics in the suburbs; the beautiful curving Goodwill Pedestrian Bridge with its signature skyward spiral; the Botanical Gardens overlooking the Brisbane River
We decided that we had had enough walking for the daytime and so went back home to catch some rest.
We came out again in the evening as A brought me to see the local Chinatown (a must-see for me since I am almost Chinese) and interestingly enough, Chinatown is home not only to the Asian grocers and your Oriental eateries - it was also home to Brisbane's most popular nightclubs and lounges.
The view from A's room in the daytime and at night; Chinatown is proudly displayed on the top right red building as you enter it - there is a China House in Chinatown, there is a China Room in China House, there is a China kitchen in China Room, and in the China room there is very nice china. I'm sorry I made you read that.
There were many interesting statues that graced our path back to Southbank for dinner at Cha Cha Char. One showed an itinerant bagpack-carrying kangaroo waiting to cross the road at a traffic light, while another were just an eerie pair of hands situated at the corner of Eagle and Queen St. The hands were trying to make a point, I think, like - "Hey, look! My other hand is pointed to where the hidden treasure of Captain Cook is! Start digging!"
The statues; Char Cha Char, and a delicious dinner. Note the cute cow sauce dispenser in the left hand corner.
We made our way to Char Cha Char finally, and were a little bit early so A and I just sat out by the night river and talked a little more. We were finally given seats inside and proceeded to have a really nice steak dinner which A very generously paid for. We also had really expensive water, which cost us about seven dollars and fifty cents for a bottle of still water.
(Today's travelling tip: When the waiter asks you if you want water and you say yes, and proceeds to ask you whether you want option a: Sparkling or b: Still, go for option c: Tap. Water shouldn't cost $7.50 a bottle. Even if it has been blessed by the Pope.)
I am going to end off my very satisfying three day trip to Brisbane here. I must say that I really like the town itself, I felt really safe walking the streets the whole time, and I am sure that one day it will match and surpass Melbourne as a very liveable city indeed.