Thursday, February 21, 2008


I currently interrupt my Aussie blog-a-thon to say two things. One - I can now update my blog via mobile, and two - I finally get to go to Boracay! Yipee!
Saturday, February 16, 2008

When In Brisbane, Don't Take The Bus....

Definitely the best thing about Brisbane is using the ferry to get around town. It may not be as extensive as the trains of Sydney, or the trams of Melbourne, but standing at the front of a boat coasting through the Brisbane River with a breeze on your face (just hold that Titanic impersonation) is the sweetest way to travel. If you're lucky, get the City Cat that offers your second-floor rides.

I've already mentioned the standard sights of the city, now cross to the other bank and find out the region's cultural core. Apart from having no less than three major universities along the river, there stands an exhibition area, swimming pools, botanical gardens, a theater, the state library, the state museum and a museum of modern art. Timing was impeccable, as I chanced upon an Andy Warhol exihibit in the Gallery of Modern Art, and one of their features included a photo booth that will send you a Warholized photo of yourself. Here's mine:

Take that, Monroe!

Spent the whole evening taking crazy photos. Can yu count the 3 Ronnies?

The North Bank is aglow!

I'm glad that I really went to Brisbane. The Couchsurfers I met were amazing, the city itself was endearing, and I could really see myself mooching about the city some more.
Friday, February 15, 2008

Couchsurfing The Forest

Initial impressions. Done. Time to get my things settled in, drop off my stuff, and meet my host in Brisbane. Much thanks yet again to CouchSurfing, I found a willing host to lend me sleeping space for my 4 day stay. All I know is that the house was in the university district, so I board a bus headed that way. I meet the first and only jerk throughout my journey, and he gave me attitude for not knowing where the place was. Duh, it's my first day here, and he's the one driving around the area!

Anyway, I ask the local petrol shop for directions (you know which one), and since there weren't any buses headed that-a-way, decided to walk it. It turned out to be a 30 minute walk, not so bad, until I get to the house. The house looked like Macaulay Culkin ran through it in Home Alone. All the doors were open, there were sheets and mattresses on the floor, there was a couch on the tree in front of the house, and a fridge on the lawn! So I tried contacting my host, until I eventually gave and, and fell asleep on the couch. Thirty minutes later, someone wakes me up and asks me what was I doing at their door and my lovely host comes to the rescue! I dump my things, have a quick chat, then return to the city.

Later that evening I meet all 6 housemates, and their current couchsurfer, Graham. While drinking goon (translation: cheap wine in a box), I am informed that there will be two more lads coming in, and there is a couch on the roof. Awesome, awesome, awesome! The wine, and the fantastic views of Brisbane, and great company are definitely the highlights of my Brisbane trip.

Lots of people!

Eventually, there would be 13 people staying at that house (the facial expression on the guests' faces, including mine, were priceless!), with the last guy in getting to sleep sitting down on the couch. I'll forever remember the roof-couch, great goon, and trivial pursuit. Definitely one of the most memorable CouchSurfing experience I've had.
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brisbane, A City For The Future

Whoops, my days seem to be fully loaded with activities that I forgot to mention that yesterday was my last day in Siddies. Early in the morning, I need to head off to Queensland's capital city, Brisbane. I initially wanted to go, but decided against it to spend more time in Sydney, then changed my mind again (fickle, I know) in order to meet more CouchSurfers and spread the good word about the Philippines. At least it sounded like a mission.

Upon arrival in Brisbane, I was definitely grateful that I made the right choice. The weather felt like Tagaytay, a bit less humid, but you can definitely feel the tropicality of the region. Getting to the city was a breeze, as there is a dedicated rail line from the airport to Central Station (I just love DIY airport transfers). Their transport system is being upgraded right now, to handle Airbus 380s, more international arrivals, larger vehicular traffic, and extensions of the existing rail lines.

You can definitely tell that Brisbane is a city on the rise. Whilst their CBD features old colonial style buildings similar to Sydney, a majority of the buildings are new, and construction is prevalent. My favorite? Brisbane Square, which houses the gigantic metal soccer balls, the city library (whose Tagalog section has nothing but romance novellas with titles such as Hindi Mo Sarili Ang Kasalanan and May Utang Kang Pag Ibig), all built on top of a motorway underpass. Check out the slanted window slivers on the library wall.

City Library at Brisbane Square

Where the buildings of old are being shadowed by newer towers...

There was enough sights to see, their city hall boasts that Savage Garden has the keys to the city, Saint Stephen's Cathedral was a good place to take pictures around (apparently, I enjoyed it a bit too much), and a concise shopping district. I totally regret not shopping in Brisbane - Australia may seem a bit disorienting to the regular Pinoy mall shopper, but the Brisbane Queen Street Mall will quickly get you back on your feet.

Man, it's a pretty long post already, and it's just the morning I got to Brisbane, or as they would call it, Brisvegas. I guess it just shows how much I loved it there. More next time.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Heading Off To Homebush Bay

Similar to yesterday's zoo, today I saw caged animals being ogled at and photographed. Replacing cages with tennis courts, and animals with gorgeous female tennis players, it turned out to be the Sydney Open at Homebush Olympic Park. I've been to a tennis tournament before, but they were for men; and half the crowd then is now suspended for doping ... talk about drat rotten luck.

Anyway, the moment I step inside, I see Ana Ivanovic practicing to my left. I quickly change lenses, a zoom here and there, and voila. I had something to keep myself busy for the next 30 minutes.

Ana Ivanovic!She's gorrrrrgeous!

Today was worse than yesterday's experience at the zoo. I'm wearing my jacket full-on, even though it's shining outside. Note to self, remember the song that goes: Wear Sunscreen. If I could offer you one piece of advise....I digress.

Luckily, it's the first day of the tournament, and there were plenty of seats in the shade. So I find a really comfy seat, but not before taking this photograph. Daniela! Woot, she (eventually) finally made it to a Grand Slam semifinal.

She's beautiful :) Much more up close...

There was one match left, but I figured that it would take forever to finish it, and there was much to pack. So I took a quick night shot of their lovely tennis stadium and called it a day. Just in case you're wondering who these players were, it's Igor Andreev and Richard Gasquet.

Night matches are awesome! And cold too....
Still nursing a sunburn that managed to sneak through yesterday's rain, I meet up a CouchSurfer and we proceed to the zoo. One of the few zoos where you have to cross a magnificent harbor just to get to. The sun was really shining hard, but the breeze kind of made up for it ... a little. Definitely on our checklist was the authentic and indigenous critters from Down Under, including the ubiquitous koalas and kangaroos. There were other never-heard-of animals in the zoo, including quolls, hydromys, and dunnarts.

I think this is a post I'd rather fill up with photos.

It's a wallaby!

Yes, it's not indigenous, but aren't meerkats cute?

All together now: Awwww.... (Lazy drunken koala)

Footnote, never saw the Tasmanian devil. He was too busy burrowing under wood shavings. I'll just have to trust photographs for that one.
Monday, February 11, 2008

Nobody Throws A Party Like Sydney

Yes, I missed the fireworks to usher in 2008, but since the party hat is always on this side of Down Under, it didn't take me long to see the whole city have a major throwdown. Sydney Festival was just around the block, choosing select CBD streets and pubs, but I decided to have one on Saint Martin Place. And since an SLR camera won't fit any of my pockets, here's the only pic I got.

Sydney Festival at Hyde Park

Earlier was a day for the beach. Bondi beach was the obvious choice, and being a bit too headstrong in searching for the beach, I ended up in a retirement home district, where the mean age was 40 years above mine. Yes, give me a pat on the back. Apart from that, I earned a mildly bad sunburn walking from Bronte Beach to Bondi. Mildy, because it was stormy - where else will you find beaches closed due to bad weather (rain and waves), yet still manage to toast your skin with overcast skies?

You don't say...

I'm sure that this is your idea of a vacation as well...

No worries, maybe it was the little pockets of sunshine that crisped me. Soundtrack alert: Hands Clean by Alanis Morissette.
Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sydney Sights

My second day in Sydney included long, long walks in the city. Indeed. summer is different in a tropical country. Their summer had blistering sunshine, but "cold" winds. As a matter of perspective, this "cold" is anything below 26 degrees celsius. This weather, me likey!

So, just the usual city walk, from markets to parks to your usual meeting places. In order to get your bearings correct, a lengthy walk around city center is much recommended. Flashforward, all the Australian streets are either George, Albert, Mary, Ann, and their brethren of monarchial names. However, I found no Henry street -it's nothing against the house of Tudors (I hope), Elizabeth Street was very common.

After much walking, and doing the Sydney sight checklist, I realised that the city was a brick forest. In contrast to our beloved Manila's rich cement and wood plank history, theirs is a milieu of brick in an assortment of earthen hues.

This brick is red.

Apart from that, Sydney boasts its harbours. No great civilisation has really flourished in the absence of water, and this city simply revels in it. Tada, Harbour Bridge! A Sydney icon. Whoops, they haven't taken down the New Years hourglass (to further spite me for missing the festivities).

Belated Happy New Year then...

This one here is a traditional bridgehouse, dressed in the well-loved yellow and green, and marks one of the first bridges when Sydney was first inhabited. Or that's the story I think I remember reading from a pamphlet nearby.

Pyrmont Bridge

And as a parting shot, you all know the Sydney Opera House.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Long Flight and An Amazing Skyline

Finally, I got some time to sneak out and write in my blog. Everyone at home and at work was asking, and perhaps you my dear readers, all two of you, how my trip went. In a word, it was SUPER.

Sydney Town Hall

So I land in Sydney - it was the longest flight I've ever taken, and halfway through the 8-hour flight, I went claustrophobic. My seatmate was probably drowsy from all-night partying prior to the flight, so he slept like a baby; I on the other hand, was suffering from boredom, and disbelief that they'd be showing a B-Movie in a long-haul flight. So, the best way is to chat up the flight attendants (definitely out of my age group, so stop snickering), and mooch for a free drink. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough, so I just tried to sit still in my seat like a kindergarten student on detention.

Then the Sydney skyline came along. No pictures, drat, but you'd have to marvel on how they developed a portwith a craggy coastline and numerous bays, into a dazzling metropolis. The lights were all aglow, and that sight was surely worth the 8-hour trip.

Amazing skyline over at Sydney Harbour

That's it for now. We'll talk about walking around Sydney next time.

ps. I sneak away for a week and all I manage to come up with is a shabby excuse for a blog entry. Worry not, I'll be back with a more respectable outing.