Thursday, May 11, 2017

[BRISBANE] Breezy in Brissy

Queensland was intentionally left out of the itinerary when I made my debut down under last year. It’s just that all the cheap Air Asia X flights land in Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney back then. This made Brisbane or Gold Coast a bit too inaccessible for me because I’m such a cheapo. But that is no longer a problem now. With Air Asia X now serving the state via Gold Coast, coming back is an issue of when rather than if. And now the dilemma, which city should I choose given the limited time frame?

I guess this was also one of the considerations as to why I dropped QLD altogether. For the other states, there is always an obligatory popular city that you can visit because that’s where everybody goes anyway. Victoria has Melbourne. NSW has Sydney. There’s Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north. And of course, Western Australia has Perth. For QLD, it always seems to be a tug-o-war between the state capital of Brisbane and the beach life in Gold Coast. And then you also have Cairns up north if you love diving.

Our stop in Gold Coast lasted just over an hour. Coming back from Auckland, I re-entered Australia via Brisbane where I got interrogated again. Okay, fine, I suppose it’s not a racial thingy after all. The immigration duo who questioned me here were both polite and upbeat. They then warned me that my “irregular” itinerary might court more trouble wherever I was heading to next. Noted, guys. I’m just glad that the ConXion I booked was the later one. Otherwise, I would have missed it.

Why Brisbane, then? The decision was entirely based on my onward flight to Port Moresby which takes off from Brissy. I was planning to split my two days in Oz between Brissy and Gold Coast but that would have involved two full days of sightseeing. I just wanted to chill in Queensland which is why I made things simpler by just staying at the state capital. Some people might find Brisbane boring. The CBD is here. The colonial buildings are also here. But life tends to unfold along the banks of the river, not at the beach.

Brisbane’s river is like an invasive serpent snaking down southeast Queensland, its curves serving as barriers between districts. My Airbnb place at West End, for example, is surrounded by the river’s two curves on all sides except the east. Cross the northern edge and you end up at the CBD. That’s also where Kangaroo Point and Riverside are located, the two areas that I deemed worthy of a daytime stroll. I love the beach but rivers offer this distinct kind of chill vibe, especially when there’s a CBD located nearby.

It was breezy and rather chillier here than it was in Auckland. Now I’m convinced that I chose the wrong season to be here. Day One was sabotaged by overcast skies and some drizzles, but it did not hinder me from taking that stroll at Kangaroo Point. With almost everything of interest accessible under 15 minutes via Uber, I opted not to invest on a transportation card anymore. The driver dropped me off at the park overlooking the river, with the skyline of the CBD dwarfing our side from across the water.

The cliffs are rather popular for rappelling and I saw several teenagers there doing so under the care of who I suppose was an experienced rock climber. The steep descent seems fun, though not that high. The natural wall formed by the cliffs has a convenient walkway on street level. The skyline view is the main attraction here, punctuated by some sail boats and ferries that shuttle people back and forth from one side to another. There is also a park with barbecue grill facilities. I wonder if those are free.

I ended the night at South Bank where you can choose from the many restaurants if you are famished or just take a stroll down the artificial beach that they created, complete with a giant surfboard and legit sand. The Ferris Wheel is also located here if you want a higher vantage point for your photos. I don’t think it’s free because it screams Tourist Trap from a mile away. In any case, the river can offer magnificent photo-ops regardless the elevation of your vantage point. Just make do of what you have.

What I appreciate most about Brisbane is the modernity of it all. There are so many buildings here, most of them residential condominiums that look so modern. The choice of architectural style and color scheme creates a spellbinding cityscape that you wouldn’t mind seeing on a daily basis. It’s as if the city knew that its young history couldn’t compete with its European counterparts, and so she just gave them all a big FU and basked in her modernity. Its juxtaposition with the river turns everything into a legit visual spectacle.

I found myself back at Kangaroo Point the next day, but way north at the Story Bridge. It was sunnier and so the pictures turned out to be prettier than those of the other day. There are some extreme sport activities on the bridge but I didn’t see anyone that day. You can climb all the way up and cross over to the eastern edge of the CBD. Get back down and take a stroll at Riverside  which boasts its collection of skyscrapers of different shapes and sizes. And yeah, the Story Bridge is the photo-op backdrop this time around.

The people on this side are a more diverse bunch, with power-dressing individuals enjoying their business breaks and residents in jogging attire taking advantage of the sun’s sudden appearance. You will run into a clueless tourist or two once in a while but they seem to be the minority here. I guess most of the tourists are either diving in Cairns or living the beach life in Gold Coast. Go farther inland and you will see some colonial buildings and monuments like the train station, for example.

Tired from the two-hour stroll, I called yet another Uber after my Starbucks break. Passing through the southern edge of the CBD, I realized that I missed the good walkathon opportunity there. But then again, the tourists began multiplying and I told myself that maybe I just spared myself from the camwhore crowd. Good riddance, then. I just admired the views from inside the car before we arrived at my Airbnb place after 15 minutes or so. Time to rest, I have an early flight to Papua New Guinea tomorrow morning.

[BRISBANE] Breezy in Brissy

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