Perth: 25th – 30th Dec 2008
A sunny Christmas? Or a white Christmas? It was a dilemma. A cold country would mean bulky unflattering winter clothes, less luggage space for shopping loots and hot chocolate/soups. A warm country would mean that we can wear comfortable clothings, pack light and drink lots of SupaShakes! We were tempted by the strong Singapore dollar against the Australian dollar, and so Australia it is!
Perth: Cloudless skies, clear waters, sandy beaches, wineries!
Additional pull factor: Cheap Tiger Airways tickets!
We did some research on the internet and decided to do a “free and easy”, “fly/drive” holiday. It is convenient to rent a car at the airport and it is fairly cheap. $45/day for an economy car; $90/day for a convertible. We thought: “We would never drive a convertible in Singapore anyways (too expensive and lack of long roads where you can drive at fairly high speed to feel the wind in your face).
We had a basic plan of spending 2 nights in Perth City and 3 nights in Bunbury. To make this little road trip exciting, we kept it flexible for anything in between, but Margaret River wineries and chocolate factory were definitely on the To-Do/See-List!
So after a 5 hours flight (it’s Christmas Day but the crew didn’t do anything special on the flight!) we arrived in Perth. By the time we got our car key from the Avis rental desk, the skies had already turned dark. The car park lacked lighting unlike in Singapore and we had difficulty finding our car. Then, we saw the family of four who were in front of us at the car rental queue, and they appeared unsure of their car’s location as well. So quietly, we followed behind them. It was like the blind leading the blind. Soon, they found their car and we deduced that we were in the right area. Tom started to frantically press the car remote, and the convertible started blinking its headlights on us and it “found” us.
Although we were in a hurry to get out of the dark deserted car park, we were somewhat distracted by the convertible function. Being “sua ku” (read mountain tortoise – a local dialect to describe someone who is not up to date with current trends), we took 5 minutes to realise that you have to “press and hold” the “convertible button” then the mechanism will work (before that, all we heard was mechanical whirring without any movement).
HE SAYS: Ask for specific directions to your car and limit your amazement of the
convertible function to 5 minutes tops.
Leaving the car park, we head towards our accommodation for the night, Perth City Hostelling International. Kate memorized the route and directed me to the Hostel. It wasn’t long before we got to the hotel (shows how near it was as we were driving at a very ‘cautious’ speed – being dark, driving a convertible for the first time and all). It had a parking space for customers at a daily fee of AUD$10. When we checked in and got our room keys, we asked where we could get dinner for the night. The receptionist told us that at this hour of the night, the places we could go would be Macs down the street or Knightsbridge (a rather new night spot to hang out). Being too dark and unfamiliar with the area, we decided not to venture. Not wanting Macs for dinner either, we retired to our lovely little bed room.
The room was perfect; no frills design, a comfortable bed, a small TV, and an ensuite bathroom. However, we could hear the sounds of our ever joyful residents walking pass the corridor every now and then (even in the wee hours! – youth hostel…). The hostel also has a reading room, a kitchenette and a small chillax pool.
SHE SAYS: $100 per night for a private room with ensuite bathroom for 2 was
great! The kitchenette was a good place for you to meet new people
What is the day after Christmas? Boxing Day! And what is associated with Boxing Day? Boxing Day sales!!! Kate had already prepared shopping money for this trip and got up real early that day. The shops were slated to open at 11am but there was already a long queue in front of David Jones at 9am!
We roamed on the streets, took photos, and we decided to grab some MacDonald’s breakfast (somehow Kate and I are suckers for MacDonald’s breakfasts – hash brown and pancakes!) With our breakfast in our hands, we made our way towards Kings Park. We took more photos along the way…it was a cloudless day; clear blue skies! Here, we caught a glimpse of the Swan Bell Tower. Continuing our way towards the park, we were greatly rewarded with this view…
The breeze was cool and welcoming while the morning sun brought warmth and lifted our spirits (not forgetting the essential Vitamin D :P). People around us were relaxed. They were walking their dogs (we were careful not to sit on any poo on the grass fields), brisk walking, cycling. Looking out at the lake, some were having a relaxed morning sailing in the bay…ahhh…wish we can retire in Perth…
Energised by the morning walk and breakfast, we quickly headed back to the malls for the sales. Tom took several photos of the malls while I popped in and out of several shops. My total damage: AUD$151 for a total of 13 items of clothings! *Happiness* After the retail therapy, we stayed focused and according to our itinerary that Kate has so diligently prepared, we were going to visit Fremantle today.
SHE SAYS: Great finds in the quaint little shops!
Fremantle is known for its market and we planned it such that we would arrive on a day when the market’s open (weekends). The day had already started to turn hot. But in order to utilize the convertible and get a nice tan, we lifted the top and we’re off! Fremantle’s a short drive from Perth but we took a little diversion and took some pictures at Cottesloe Beach. We also picked up our favourite Australian drink, SUPASHAKE!! And had little picnic at the beach. Moving on, we arrived at Fremantle, drovepast the old chapel and found a parking lot close to the markets.
We started venturing into the market and were greeted with shirts of all sorts of prints at the entrance. The classic boomerangs and didgeridoo were frequently sighted as well. Then…we stumbled upon a tart store and we kept staring at the tarts. Though we were not hungry, we thought, what the heck, and we bought us this lemon lime tart. Of course, Kate just wanted to give it a try and I gobbled down the rest. *Happiness for Tom*
That night, we concluded our stay in Perth City by splurging at an Italian restaurant (Positano Restaurant) for dinner. We had yummy parmesan veal and margarita pizza. We loved the huge portions in Australia!
HE SAYS: Boxing Day sales must have been real good. You should have seen the
big smile that hung on Kate’s face that day! : )
Leaving the hostel, we drove along the scenic coastal route. We took frequent breaks and enjoyed the clear waters and sandy beaches. Somehow we took the wrong turn and got lost! But that wrong turn led us to Point Peron with stunning views! We even managed to get yummy cheesecake from The Cheesecake Shop tucked away in the small town (Kate had been craving for them ever since she tasted them in Brisbane). Helpful and friendly Aussies at the look-out point then orientated us to the direction of Mandurah.
SHE SAYS: Remember to book your car rental with unlimited mileage for such
We had lunch at Mandurah and decided to have steak-and-cheese pie and apple turnover.
Unfortunately we were caught in a 2hour traffic jam from Mandurah to Bunbury due to a traffic accident on a one lane road (there were also more cars then usual because people were heading to a festival down south). By now we could not withstand the mid-day sun and had to put the top down and turn the A/C on at max.
We arrived at the Dolphin Retreat Bunbury around 5pm and discovered that it was more “no frills” than the Perth City Hostel. We almost missed it as it was a typical Aussie house along a residential street. It has parking space for about 5 cars. There were only communal toilets and a small lounge area for the residents to hang out.
But with the low price, it was decent enough (AUD$60 for a private double room). Thankfully, the summer days were long and we could still stroll along the beach and watch the sunset.
It was a long stretch of beach right beside the street where the hostel is situated. For one of the dinner, we bought a whole roasted chicken from Coles and had a picnic by the beach. The houseflies were interested in our dinner too! :/ With the amount of walking along the beach, I think we had enough exercise for the week
SHE SAYS: I love endless beaches and the warm glow from the sunset!!
Sunrise is early during summer in Australia and we weren’t quite used to it. But looking forward to a big breakfast (literally and figuratively), we ordered the “Big Breakfast” at Café Bean. We gobbled down our food and almost forgot to take pictures!! Here in this picture, you can see the remnants of the fried mashed potato, the sunny-side-up, button mushrooms and the sausage. We had our fill and we made our way to the wineries!
Enroute to the wineries, we HAD to stop at the famous Margaret River Chocolate Factory (for free samples of white, milk and dark chocolate buttons!) The products were quite pricey so we settled for a souvenir cup (filled with honeycomb choc) and a piece of almond choco block.
HE SAYS: Don’t be shy! You can go for as many chocolate samples as you want.
We even took a handful for the road!
There are SO MANY wineries in the Margaret River estate! We had a map with us with the wineries numbered (you can get this map from the local hostels/hotel and in some of the wineries). We kinda each randomly picked a few numbers to visit but we had to visit
Vasse Felix! It is the first vineyard to be established in the Margaret River region (1967). The compound was huge and we enjoyed the free wine tasting. We tasted an expensive dessert wine which was really really really sweet After sampling wines at 2 other wineries, we began to feel a little bit tipsy.
So Tom suggested that we head back but stop by a brewery this time. Duckstein Brewery was our next stop. This brewery had gardens for the children to play and restaurant that serves huge portions of German food and beer for the adults to partake. We settled for the common German fare of roasted pork knuckle and hefeweisse (white German wheat beer). We then had a nice little stroll in the park but we had to fight off the incessant “harassment” of the houseflies.
HE SAYS: Flies are a common sight during the summer months in Perth. Some may
even “hitch a ride” on your back as you stroll along the beaches.
Next on our itinerary was a guided tour up the Naturaliste Lighthouse (built in 1903). The tickets were priced at AUD$11 per pax and the tour guide gave an informative narration of the lighthouse’s history. He described the shipwrecks that took place off the coast, lives of the guards who used to work in the lighthouse, as well as the advancement in technology (use of crystal prisms) of the lighthouse. We could see the Sugarloaf rock from the top of the lighthouse (it’s a short lighthouse but it is built on a 110m hill). The winds were strong that day and it totally messed up Kate’s hair while I “hid” behind the tour guide (he was a “rolly-polly” man :P)
Dolphin Discovery Centre
One of the reasons why we chose Bunbury as the second leg of our road trip was its close proximity to the Dolphin Discovery Centre. For a mere AUD$5 (adult tix; valid for 2 days in case the dolphins did not turn up at the shore on the first day), we could learn about the dolphin habitat via exhibitions and videos in the centre. It was amazing how the wild dolphins interact with the humans along the shore. We were instructed to stand in a straight line facing the ocean, making coordinated movements forwards without alarming the dolphins. The staff of the discovery centre was able to identify the dolphins approaching the shore by the scars on their fins. The playful dolphins would circle around some of us and even allowed us to touch them.
Tom was then distracted by the seagulls at the beach. I specifically told him not to feed them but he adamantly took bread pieces and fed them. It seemed fun at first, but soon, more seagulls gathered around us. We tried to leave by calmly walking away but they followed after us and cast shadows upon us as they hovered around. It was frightening!!!
SHE SAYS: Do not feed the seagulls!!!! (I told you, already!) Husbands, please
listen to your wives.
We spent the last day leisurely at the beach. The hostel had boogie boards for guests to use for free. Tom took up the challenge and tried the boogie board for the first time. The water was freezing!!! I, on the other hand, lay on the soft sand and enjoyed my sun tan, watching Tom being washed ashore over and over again. That evening, we sat by the beach, blessed and contented, watching the sun set in the horizon.
SHE SAYS: The convertible was a good experience and the budget accommodation was fine with us as we spent most of the day sightseeing anyways. I loved the blue cloudless skies and white sandy beaches! We did so much yet we didn’t feel rushed and tired at the end of the day. I wanna go Australia again! But first, I have to wait for the currency to weaken…(as of 2011)
HE SAYS: Well worth the money! We enjoyed the splendid scenery, great food and wine. The sale was great as well. In fact, we are planning for another trip just to do Boxing Day sales all over again! I enjoyed the drive. Miles of uncrowded roads is not something we have in Singapore. The whole holiday was relaxing and I was all charged up, energized and ready to go for the new year.
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