Well, what shall i say about Perth, other than it is the capital city of Western Australia, the largest state in the nation? Hmm… this is one difficult journal to write, coz there is really nothing much to shout about. Before i went for this trip, all i’ve ever heard about Perth from those who has been there was that it is a boring place; some even say that it is a “Retirement Village” and “There’s nothing there.”. I’ve never believed them, especially after i’ve flicked through all those overly-romanticised brochures, until i saw it for myself.
To quote a bright young gentleman i’ve just met who was 100% born and bred in Perth : “Perth is the third most boring city in the world!.”-unquote.- I kid you not, this is direct from the horse’s mouth. Although he couldn’t really cite his reference, but i think i believe him. Don’t ask what the first and second are. I don’t really wanna know.
So, let me explain why it is a boring trip and how to make it more interesting. Looking on the bright side though, it is also undoubtedly the most economical long haul overseas trip i’ve ever had. (Probably that’s why.)
Some handy tips, perhaps :-
Tip #1 : Rent a car. That way, you can conveniently get to faraway places where the real attractions are. Eg. Pinnacles, Wave Rock, Margaret River, Busselton Jetty, Monkey Mia, etc.. However, be ready for the hassle packaged with renting a car too: hefty insurance, additional costs for rental and fuel, very strict traffic laws (and very expensive traffic fines), limitations to types of roads the car can go on, oh, and you need a good navigator too, for studying detailed maps (not someone like me, hehe!). And this reminded me of something; and I quote our local host : “The signboards in Perth are impossible! When you come to a crossroad, there are no signages. Even when there is a signage, you will see it too late after you’ve made the wrong turn.” Nonetheless, having a car will save you lots of time too, and gets you to the doorstep of your destination, so weigh your priorities and decide which is the best option for you.
Tip#2 : If you don’t intend to rent a car, stay in the city centre.
If you choose to stay outside the city centre without a car, and if you plan to go out visiting everyday, then congratulations : you will waste a lot of time and energy waiting for buses and trains and studying 100 pieces of different time tables everyday to plan your daily connections. Yup, public transportation system is rather “unremarkable”. Connecting journeys : “doubly unremarkable”. Journey de-routes due to scheduled train maintenance : “triply unremarkable”!!
Tip#3 : If you are in a party of 2 or more (doesn’t matter if you are not related), make use of the Family Day Rider; for A$9.30 you can have unlimited travel within the day, on all modes of transportation to all destinations (with certain exceptions of course). However it’s only good for weekends and school holidays. Or, if just travelling within the city, make use of the free CATS – Red, Blue and Yellow – Their routes cover quite a big area, and they are available in both Perth and Freemantle cities. And, they come “meowing” quite frequently too, every 5-10 minutes. You can see the big lean gorgeous cat on the bodies of the buses, that’s how you can differentiate the CATs from the normal TransPerth buses.
I’m not sure if it’s just Perth, or at other parts of Australia too, but everything seems to be comparatively more expensive here – accommodation, food, local tours, public transportation fares, souvenirs, etc…
Tip#4 : To save cost on accommodation, stay with a host. If the house is located slightly on the outskirts of the city, the rental is likely very much cheaper than a centrally located hotel. You can find some pretty good looking deals such as these in places like Airbnb. Preferably, choose one that provides breakfast too. Save you a meal outside. Of course, this only works well if you have a car, or if you intend to stay in the house all day. Otherwise, back to the “unremarkable-journey-planning-syndrome”.
Tip#5 : If you want to shop in the city, go early. Most of the shops in the city centre close at 5.00pm, or earlier. Some even close at 4.00pm. The only shops that are still open (maybe) after 5.00pm are fast food outlets and souvenir shops that sell overpriced “designed-in-Australia-made-in-China” souvenirs.
It was also raining on most of the days that we happen to be there. This is quite a miracle as Perth is a city known to enjoy more sunshine than any other capital cities in Australia. According to some of the locals, it rarely ever rains in Perth, and we got like 5 consecutive days of them…. hmm…. good day for buying the lottery i guess, but lotteries are not our game though.
Pardon the subtle rhetorics here. Perth is actually not too bad, it is just not exactly my cup of tea though.
Nevertheless, let’s move on to some of the attractions that we actually visited in Perth and its surrounding areas.
Took the Red CAT and climbed the 242 steps known as Jacob’s Ladder to reach the grounds of King’s Park.
Huge area of natural bushland, tranquil park areas, native birds, and spectacular city views from the hilltops; this is probably the most attractive place located in the city. It is also home to the Western Australian Botanic Garden, the glass-bridge “treetop” Lotterywest Federation Walkway.
DNA Tower – nothing hi-tech or romantic about this, just a spiral metal staircase in the shape similar to a strand of DNA with 101 steps. Not even the view on top of this tower is rewarding.
Panoramic views of the city and the Swan River from King’s Park.
Not sure exactly what’s with the obsession with Kings and Queens and their relations to parks and gardens in Perth? Nevertheless, while Kings Park did live up to the glamour and grandeur of its name, Queens Garden is a significant notch less. 3 notches less. Maybe 10. Hmm…. OK, Queens Park is no comparison at all to Kings Park, mistake not about the confusing naming conventions. Not even in the same league. It is a small park with a small lake with 1 black swan as its lonely occupant, and no flowers (maybe not in season at the time of our visit). However, it is still a lovely little park, and a nice piece of green to exercise in or a relaxing walk after working hours.
Swan Bells Tower
As the name suggests, it is a tower filled with bells (not swans). It’s located next to the Swan River though, hence the name, i suppose. It is one of the world’s largest musical instruments, a uniquely shaped 82 meter tower that houses a lot of bells and for bell enthusiasts, some fascinating displays on the history of bells and the bell ringing too. Unfortunately, this tower closes at 4.00pm (or 3.30pm) so it was closed on both days i came here, even though the sky was still sunny and bright. Hmm….. looks like i have not much affinity with bells, after all. Fortunately i am not a bell enthusiast, though.
Barrack Street Jetty
Near the Swan Bells Tower, it is a jetty along the Swan River where all the cruises to the Swan Valley region depart from, and the opposite direction leads all the way down to Fremantle, the port city where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean.
Shopping streets – Hay St., Murray St., London Court Arcades
The popular shopping areas in the city centre where all the shops are conveniently located with arcades connecting each other. London Court Arcade is a little unique street with a setting somewhat like old England, (complete with the flags, knights, stone buildings, Shakespeare and all) and the cafes and shops’ facades are built in that manner too, to create a blast-to-the-past feel. However, as its location is conveniently nestled in the middle of the city centre, most city folks will simply use this alley as a walk-thru gateway to their train station of wherever they want to go; there will be throngs of modern-looking folks walking hurriedly past especially during peak hours, so there goes the old-England feel.
For more on the surrounding areas of Perth, move on to the next part : Perth… and A Small Radius – PART 2.