Sunday, March 07, 2010

Brisbane and Cairns… lovely cities they are

It is raining lightly today at Aji. Took a walk in the hills with my missus after breakfast. The Japan Inland Sea is calm, despite the drizzle. It is indeed a beautiful scene, and it feels super good to be back home again.
Got back from Australia yesterday, after spending some time there...

Seems to me that the Australians have a knack for good city planning. As with my brief visits to Perth and Melbourne some years ago, I am once again impressed with the way their cities are planned and managed. Shallow impressions they may be, but just take a look at how their public parks and beaches are laid out and maintained. They are so ‘user-friendly’ and clean, and most folks using the facilities seem to be well civic-minded. At Cairns, ‘no fishing’ means no fishing although I was a little surprised to see a fisherman throwing nets at the esplanade front, catching deliciously looking finger-sized prawns.

A police car patrols the city center. Even in Cairns, the red Lunar New Year banner greets you.

Cairns is a small city. The first thing that hit me as I headed towards the city was the vast sugarcane fields. I am reminded of similar scenes at Okinawa. In the city, I was struck by the immense numbers of birds that make Cairns their home. Parakeets woke me up with their raucous calls as they buzzed the early morning skies. Bats, pretty big ones, cruise the skies all day and noisily settled down in the gum trees in the evenings. The overriding feature of this little city is her hot and humid tropical weather. In this sense, she is no different from my home country Malaysia. There are coconut trees, palm trees, huge fig trees with massive roots off-shooting from branches towards the ground. Feels just like home if not for some of the plants that are unmistakably Australian.

The lagoon at the esplanade park... clean and well-maintained...

At Cairns, I was lucky to be blessed with three nights at a marvelous ‘boutique’ hotel right in the middle of the city. The bus terminal is right in the face, so is the supermarket and the seafront. The manager is very hospitable and most friendly, making my stay as enjoyable as can be. The self-contained, apartment-styled room was very clean, spacious, and neatly designed into four segments; lounge, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. All these plus maintenance to the highest hygienic standards, I must add.

Being right in the city center comes convenience. I had thought of joining a scuba diving tour at the Great Barrier Reef but decided against it due to possible tsunamis (from the Chilean earthquake) hitting the eastern shores of Australia. Had also contemplated renting a car to drive around the vicinity but in this hot weather? And driving alone without my missus as navigator? Oh no.

A fisherman throwing his net at the esplande front in the early morning hours.

On a Sunday morning… took a walk to the fresh produce market two blocks away. Man, this is like the pasar pagi (morning market) at Simpang Empat near my village back home. Only much more cleaner and more 'cosmopolitan'. You see people of all colors… peddling fruits, veggies, potted plants, bush honey, samosas, noodles… Bought myself a packet of stir-fried bitter gourd with rice from a Filipino vendor. Quite delicious it was, as I gnawed away, sweating. Also bought some ‘sugar sweet’ bananas and a big piece of fruit cake to chew in the room.

At Cairns and Brisbane, I ate and ate... so much so that I gained about 1.4 kilos in less than 2 weeks at Australia...