I have decided to break the documentation of my experiences into parts because I’m not sure how long I’m gonna write. So for a start, I went on a solo trip to the isolated continent to visit a friend, Christopher. Simply put, I did not plan much for the trip because what I really want to do is to live my normal life in a different place. I wouldn’t really consider it as an overseas holiday as I was not there to ‘have fun’. Taking only AUD800 with me and armed with a credit card, I took off on the 20th June. Coincidentally, my date of arrival falls perfectly on the June solstice, and I managed to catch the winter solstice sunrise en route to Gold Coast! Many might not even care or bother about such trivial things, but to me, such astronomical phenomenon have great significance and I cannot explain why. It was my first time flying overseas alone, and there was a weird mix of emotions: boredom, excitement, anticipation, sadness…
Here’s a picture of the winter solstice sunrise!
These were the places I was at for the full two weeks:
21 – 22 June – Gold Coast
23 – 27 June – Toowoomba
28 – 29 June – Brisbane
30 June – 1 July – Toowoomba
2 – 4 July – Brisbane
I was in Toowoomba most of the time because my friend lives there and works during the weekdays. Therefore, most of the time weekdays were spent alone chilling and well… read further. Toowoomba is a small city situated 1.5 hours drive west of Brisbane, on the Great Dividing Range, which means that the city was built on a mountain range 700 meters above ground.
If you search online for Toowoomba, you would find that it is described as Australia’s second largest inland city, which seemed as if it has a wow factor. Coming from a big and busy city like Singapore, with the pace of life running so quickly, it took me a while to recover from the shock that Toowoomba can actually be considered a ‘city’. The area of Toowoomba is just a third of Singapore’s and the population density is about 237 per kilometer square, compared to Singapore’s 7540 per km square. That is a whooping 32 times lesser! Which means to say, it is difficult to even see people walking on the streets. Okay I’m talking more about the suburbs; the city center still sees people walking about. But it was just so mind-blowing. I meant I have been to Perth 5 years ago and I have realised how ‘dead’ the city was. However, it was still uncomfortable to see the absence of hustle bustle.
Just look at this street, taken a few blocks away from where I stayed. How chill it is! You don’t see towering apartments or skyscrapers blocking the beautiful blue sky. You don’t see people rushing up and down the streets to go to work or to get home. You don’t see vehicles speeding or overtaking as if they are rushing to get reincarnated. Everything was just so, so calm.
Let’s talk about my first day in Toowoomba. After my friend and his colleagues went to work, I took a 15min stroll to The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and its Japanese garden.
It was a small and old campus. As it was the exam week, students were studying in common indoor areas without much activities. Thereafter, I went back home to rest. Feeling hungry, I searched for cheap restaurants. Nowhere in my dictionary was the definition of ‘cheap’ anywhere near A$15. Hence, resigning to the fate that that was going to be the minimum I was going to spend, I drove up to the city center. Oh my luck has its turn sometimes. I caught a poster outside Hog’s Breath Cafe flashing a $9.90 lunch special. So I went to proceed with my lunch and insisted on nothing but just the $9.90 smoked beef wrap, which was a pretty huge portion. I was told that the service personnel in Australia don’t usually judge you. However, I think I was acting so odd to the waiter that he began to judge me; because I refused to order drinks or desserts. When I foot my bill, he asked, “Is $9.90 too much?” I’m not sure if this was a cultural thing or what, but in Singapore, a statement like that would mean you are a stingy person. I replied, “Nope that was great.” I would take it as a cultural difference, just like how they say “too easy” to mean “no worries”, and not “your order is too easy i’m gonna chuck it aside”.
Walked around the CBD and visited some shops to see what was in store. After my parking time expired, I drove to a nearby botanic gardens to chill (not as if I was not chilling from the beginning). A couple of visitors brought their dogs to exercise while some jogged along the paths. The cold wind blew across the park mercilessly, causing shivers even though the sun stood bright. Besides that, it was very quiet.
I think the final trip of that day ended with me visiting a supermarket because I realised I cannot survive eating out every day. So I whipped up a random dinner which miraculously tasted okay. The sun set at around 5pm and it felt like the day had ended. I spent the rest of the night surfing the web and watching shows.
How chill was that! The pace of life was really slow. No stress, no deadlines, no worries, just relax. Do whatever you like, at anytime and go anywhere. I was lucky to have a car to myself borrowed on the goodwill of my other friend, James. (He has a car in Australia but he is in Singapore. How cool is that right?)
Speaking about driving, I think Toowoomba can be a very good place for learner drivers. Traffic is mild and drivers are generally polite. Over in Australia, speed limits are strictly enforced, and most if not all drivers follow them on the dot. That is to say, on a city road of limit 60kmh, no one goes probably 3kmh above or below. If you travel at say 57kmh, you see cars overtaking you and if you travel at 62kmh, you overtake all the traffic ahead of you. Patience is often observed on the roads so there is no need to panic in any unexpected traffic conditions. I love the idea of the roundabouts; their small cross junctions are replaced by roundabouts instead of traffic lights, so you can really see the good etiquette of the drivers, taking turns to maneuver around the junction.
I’ll probably talk more about Australian driving in the next post.
Coming back, it is hard to believe that such slow pace of life can see commodities selling at high prices in comparison to Asian countries. I am not sure about their wage policies, but even prices of daily necessities are ridiculously expensive. Eating out is seriously only reserved for special occasions or as a last resort. However, they have this ‘Cheap Tuesdays’ offer in most food outlets, such as 9 for $9.95 or 12 for $12 KFC chicken (Their pieces are much bigger than Singapore’s!) Domino’s Pizza sells $4.95 regular pizza which I can also eat for both lunch and dinner. So the conclusion is, eat out on Tuesdays!
Hmm what else are there? Let me sort out my thoughts again, I will be back.