Buddha, Marx and Me: Thailand to Cuba
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September 21, 2004
Behind the Times
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
We flew into Brisbane. Perhaps the most revealing thing I can say about it is that across the three days we were there I didn't take a single picture of it. The only real contender was an Irish pub which had a large sign outside which said 'Drinking Consultants'. This is almost certainly the best thing in Brisbane. To be fair to the place we were staying in a crappy place that was a bit out of town and we were tired from the 7-8 hour flight from Singapore*. Also the prices put a real downer on things.
In Asia we were comfortably underspending without having to curtail our spends so coming to pricey Australia was a bit of a shock. (Here is one good example - and then I'll shut up about prices - in Thailand you can buy a bottle of water for 7pence in Cairns in a normal small store the shop assistant was not in the slightest ashamed to ask for the fifteen times more for the same product).
The problem with Brisbane or 'Bris-Vegas' as the locals call it is that is so indistinctive. There was a nice river, a few nice buildings, an disturbingly high amount of adult shops; there was nothing to complain about but nothing was arresting or particularly interesting. We did go to the one Casino in Brisbane which was quite good - although we could only afford roulette and Sic-Bo (like roulette with dice) and we lost all our money. We also visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which was pretty good. However, the Koalas are asleep 20 hours a day (making them only slightly more active than students). What they do is wedge themselves in the branches of the tree and just stay there. They are very cute to look at even though they look more curmudgeonly than you might imagine.
Cairns, North Queensland
With Brisbane over and done with (forever hopefully) We flew north to Cairns to start the trip all the way back down the east coast. Cairns is the premier gateway to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I had been told that Cairns was a bit of a dump, so you can imagine how much I was looking forward to getting there. Cairns has two main problems. Firstly it doesn't have a beach, only mudflats and secondly it is a bit of a party town, so it is a bit tacky in its centre. However, I forgave Cairns all of that because I loved its Esplanade. This was particularly true at night. They have a lagoon which is an open air swimming pool with imported sand around the edges which is subtly lit in the evening. Around the lagoon area the council had put in 'Barbeque stations' which were big metal hot pans on counters (which they cleaned out everyday). They also had exercise staions, info points, fixed binoculars, childrens playgrounds and so on which were all free. They also put on entertainment like fire eaters some polynesian singing group. Obviously the council had put a lot of effort in putting in some really innovative stuff.
We went out to sample the night life of Cairns which centred around a pub/club called the woolshed. It was ok but it just got cheesier and cheesier. Fortunately it was easy to know when to leave. As soon as the DJ breaks out the 'Grease megamix' then I head for the door. It's a simple system which I encourage anyone to use at any club or pub or even wedding that you might be at. What I found most depressing about the Woolshed were some of the people in there. I met four people who had been in Cairns a month and had not been out to see the Reef. It's worth bearing in mind that a full day trip costs as little as 25 pounds and yet they still hadn't gone. I found it defied belief particularly when one guy said that he came to the woolshed "pretty much every night, it's addictive". I thought it was a pretty depressing way to travel. He could be at any crappy club in the world and be hearing 'Love Shack' or 'YMCA'.
The main event of being in Cairns was clearly the Great Barrier Reef. We went on a day trip which mainly centred around two 2hour sessions of snorkelling at different parts of the Reef. I won't offer you the usual cliche that it's like another world but in the best parts it was quite dreamlike. The coral makes a kind of moonscape, I say that because the textures were so different. There was huge boulder coral, stuff that looked like flowers and one even that looked like Brain. The fish were amazing. They were the most colourful I have ever seen. The shoals of fish in particular were breathtaking. It was a great experience that I would recommend.
*The more sharp-eyed amongst you might notice that I went to Singapore and yet there is no entry about it. Well done if you did.
Posted by Richard on September 21, 2004 09:01 AM
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