Probably the first thing I noticed about Australia was the high cost of EVERYTHING. Hotels start at about $200 per night and go up from there. I’ll post more about this later but as I prepared my stay in Perth I found it increasingly difficult to find affordable accommodations and eventually just bit the bullet and paid for a high cost hotel in the city center. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my hotel was on Hay Street – just a 5 minute walk from the Hay Street Market District. On parallel streets are additional market districts wherein the streets are shut down to vehicle traffic giving the entire district a mellow pedestrian feel.
On the day of my arrival my host took me to a wonderful pub district in East Perth where we tried some local beers and then settled on a Cambodian restaurant for dinner. The food was phenomenal albeit a bit pricey. One thing that I’ll have to get used to is NOT TIPPING! They don’t tip here and it isn’t expected. Perhaps for a full meal you’ll leave the spare change or a buck maybe but this 15-20% expected tipping is unheard of. We’ve been so browbeaten in American; I still have a hard time not leaving a tip – I feel as though the tip police will jump out and snatch me right away.
On my first full day in town I went sightseeing through Hay Street and down to the Barracks Street Wharf. Barracks street runs perpendicular to hay Street and as you turn down towards the marina you can see the Swan Bell Tower; it chimes on the hour and half and houses Royal Bells that come from the old country. The bell tower also serves as an observation platform and provides scenic views of the city.
The city center is full of tourists from Australia and abroad. It is always fun to talk with the Australians as they have such a catchy accent. I noticed a lot of Asian people, both visitors and first and second generation Australians. The weather is perfect, about 75 degrees (20c) and it is hard to NOT see a beautiful woman as they are everywhere. If it wasn’t for such a high cost of living this might make a nice retirement destination.
Mixed in with the tall skyscrapers are 100 year old brick buildings, churches and government centers of administration. The Wesley church at Hay and Williams was built entirely using convict labor. One street over, Barracks gets its name from the military barracks that used to be located on this street and it is one of the oldest streets in town. I found a construction site near here that has some low hanging scaffolding that I can reach if I jump up. I’ve made a Crossfit workout circuit that includes a jog down St. George’s, up Barracks Street, down Hay and then to the construction site. I jump up, do 3 or 4 rounds of pull-ups and then continue my lap around the block. Some of the local business owners and restaurateurs have come to recognize my 3 days in 4 workouts.
Perth has quite a lot of pedestrian traffic and I have to run carefully to avoid knocking over any of the business people as they walk to and from work. At the beginning of the Hay Street walking area is the Perth Town Hall with its beautiful clock tower. The town hall is located where the city was first founded; an inscription reads:
THIS CITY WAS FOUNDED THE 12th AUGUST 29 BY THE FELLING OF A TREE NEAR THIS SPOT
At the marina I found bus tours ($27 for a two day on & off pass), ferry rides to Freemantle and other nearby locations and beautiful parks for jogging, picnicking and just catching a little sunshine. The Black Swan River is actually a brackish (salt-water) inlet from the ocean that is host to crabs, shrimp, all sorts of fish and other wildlife. I saw these blackbirds diving under the water to collect some fish and other snacks and then they decided to dry out and retire in the sun. They let me get very close and seemed unconcerned with my presence. In the bay I found thousands of jellyfish; I don’t think that swimming here is an option.
The fashion seems very chic and the women – when they aren’t dressed so casually – seem to wear a smart business fashion of high heels and tight skirts. Those who are dressed casually are often in sun dresses or other feminine styled clothing. Frumpy sweat pants and boy’s clothing don’t seem to be so popular with the women here. There are all sorts of wild, exotic and trashy dressed men and women as well; I’ll have to make a post about them as the tattooed and pierced crowd is alive and well in Perth. I’ve come to learn that there is a name for what we refer to in America as White Trash: the Aussie description of people who look like they partied 20 years to many is the term Bogan.
I’ve heard the Bogan description applied to toothless-tattoo plastered drunkards, people with green or orange hair, homeless and anyone who has a mullet hairstyle. But, there are many smartly dressed women I think that they look rather divine – and they are plenty of them to look at. But unlike the countries of the old Eastern Bloc, there is no shortage of large people in Australia. It seems that the McDonalds revolution has arrived and the rich diet and (perhaps) somewhat lethargic lifestyle has caught up to the waistlines of many of our down-under friends. Oh, the people here aren’t quite as large as say Texas; I’d say that the sizes are about in line with Los Angeles or Seattle.
I’ve heard Perth compared to San Diego and as far as the climate and the laid-back mood of the people I’d have to agree. It is a big change from my last year working overseas and I’m still trying to slow down a bit. I suppose that 10 days of doing nothing but sipping coffee & beer, eating, walking, working out and touring the sites of this city for a while should put me into the proper groove to continue through this interesting country.
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