What can I say? I had very mixed feelings about coming to Australia… Ever since I was in high school I had dreams of coming to this country, a faraway land full of unusual creatures and constant sun... A massive country for that matter as well! I was wondering how it would be living there… Then with time this dream disappeared... As I grew up and became more reasonable and wiser (slightly wiser at least 😉) my attention was directed elsewhere… First of all I really love Europe! So many countries to visit, each of them very unique in its own way… Not to mention that you can lead a very comfortable life in Europe as well… When it comes to travelling my attention was directed a bit further away though… After watching movies, reading books and travel blogs and after having tasted a bit of Asia and Latin America, my heart got torn between these two continents instead. And now after having spent a bit more than half a year in Asia, it was really hard leaving it behind… My original plan was to spend much more time there, but then the plans changed… I was just following my heart
rather than anything else… 😊 So a big part of me was really excited about this massive new destination that suddenly appeared on my travel map. And on top of that I was really looking forward to getting to know Grant’s world as well… On the other hand a big part of me was really sad… Going to Australia, to ‘developed’ and expensive world, felt as if my trip was over already… After all there probably would be no surprises there, no challenges… Everything was just going to be so organised, clean and… did I mention it was going to be expensive already? 😉 We both knew we would need to keep an eye on our wallets a bit and enjoy our stay there as much as we could on a pretty tight budget. Sure we would manage, right? So with slightly mixed feelings, but totally excited at the same time as well, I was ready to face modern world again! Australia, here I come!
We booked our flights with Air Asia at the beginning of September and as it was getting closer to our departure date we realised there was nothing mentioned about the luggage in our itinerary.
We tried emailing the airline and calling them as well, but we reached no one. We found out that there was a customer service desk in Phnom Penh so just headed there on our first day back in the capital. It looked like at the time we booked the flights, they were changing the luggage limits on their system so in the end our flights were booked without any luggage at all and on top of that we would be sitting at two different ends of the plane. The only explanation the customer service had, was ‘Sorry, that’s how our system works’. Nice one! The plane wasn’t full at the time we were booking our tickets, so why on earth would they put two people on the same booking at totally different rows is just beyond comprehension… But then the reason is just way too obvious right? Yep, for an additional price you can change your seats of course… After spending over an hour at Air Asia office talking to the customer representative and the manager, in the end we achieved nothing at all and had to pay extra for the luggage and the change of seats. Only a small
apology for their mistake and no compensation at all… Well, how do they call it? The friendliest airline? Don’t think so… Also what really surprised me was the fact that there was absolutely nothing for free on this flight – no drinks, food… you even had to pay for a blanket and a pillow! That’s a first for me on a long flight for sure! And to think that people complain about Ryanair in Europe! 😉 Thankfully the time flew by and we got to Gold Coast in no time at all! Touched down in Australia…
There sure was no doubt we were back in the developed, very organised and pricey world – buses and trains running on time, expensive cars all around, taxis waiting patiently in line for passengers… not that we were even looking in that direction, it would probably be like spending a weekly budget in one go, no thank you, we’d try the bus-train combo instead, not that this was much cheaper, still saving a few bucks wherever possible… Yep, I could definitely feel my purse trembling with fear already…
As sad as I was about leaving Asia, it sure was a good feeling
to hang around one place for a longer period of time, take the backpack off our shoulders and take our things out of it – but then once all my stuff was laid out in the open in front of me, I have to say it was quite a disappointing sight to say the least… A few worn out clothes, some cosmetics, a few presies and souvenirs… well, that would be about it actually… It would be nice to change the wardrobe and maybe upgrade the scruffy backpacker look a bit, seeing we were in the ‘civilised’ country now right? I seriously doubted I would do any shopping here though, so the worn-out clothes would just have to do for a little longer... But then it looked like I didn’t need to worry at all it would seem, everyone around was very casual here as well – some shorts, scruffy T-shirts and flip-flops… Almost like a whole community of backpackers! Haha! We weren’t staying in a big city but in a little town so maybe that was the reason? But then as we visited Brisbane, there didn’t seem to be a big difference there in fashion either, you could definitely
see some people wearing fancy clothes and really making an effort to look above average, but in general the casual look was still dominating the streets – kind of an upgraded casual look though, sandals instead of flip-flops for example (or should I say thongs actually?). 😉
We were thinking of renting a campervan first but seeing the scary prices of a rental we gave up on this idea very quickly. Taking into account other expenses like fuel, campsites and food (yep, it’s good to eat sometimes as well!), it would be like spending almost a two-month Asian budget in two weeks… Still no regrets though as I thought that it would be a good opportunity to get to know the area Grant has been living in a bit more first, so instead of planning a big trip, we would just do small day trips around the southern part of Brisbane… staying closely to Tamborine to be exact… and later on maybe go to Brisbane and Gold Coast as well… and then head to New South Wales next…
Our first drive through Queensland roads seems very distant now, I still remember the feeling of excitement seeing wallabies for
the first time simply resting in the grass by the road though… Even seeing a road sign depicting koala was enough to make me smile then! Yes, I was definitely far away from Asia, still I was in a totally different country now, a very big country for that matter, a country with wide stretches of land, different landscapes and different animal species… many poisonous species as well actually – but then I kind of knew that already, somehow it escaped my mind though… Already on my first day in Australia we had to stop on the road to let a green tree snake cross it!!! On the first day! Ok, this one wasn’t poisonous, still it was a snake! A very different country indeed! Not to mention that it was a totally different continent actually…
We spent a few weeks waking up to a sound of lorikeets fighting over the food outside our windows and then driving around and simply admiring beautiful landscapes – apparently they call it just bush here… well… It looks more than just a bush to me… Wide stretches of grass, or dry grass at this time of the year to be exact, cattle
grazing on it in many places (even cattle is different here with funny humps on their back and a big piece of skin hanging from their chins!), massive trees all around – gum trees above all, not to mention a beautiful sunny day – every day! Yep, I can see why this country seems so attractive to many people… And I was only starting to explore it…
I don’t think I’d ever get bored with these barren landscapes, what’s amazing though that you can drive only a bit higher up and the vegetation is changing in the blink of an eye almost… From a dry land straight to a rainforest! That’s what happens when driving up Mount Tamborine at least… I couldn’t believe the difference in temperature as well, it drops a good few degrees on top… and it’s not as if we suddenly found ourselves much, much higher as the highest point is only 525metres above the sea level. What a beautiful place though… A slightly cooler air, a few walking tracks through the rainforest around, little cafes, shops and galleries, a few wineries and an incredible distillery with a wide range of home-made liquors, charming Irish pub…
but that’s not the end though! Glowing worm caves, skywalk, Thunderbird Park – not that we had a chance to check out any of these attractions yet… And lovely arts & crafts and food market every second Sunday of the month up here… What can I say? I really got to love this place!
Another place with a similar rainforest ‘vibe’ that I really enjoyed was O’Reilly’s. There are a number of attractions there as well – starting from numerous walking tracks through the Lamington National Park, a skywalk (contrary to the skywalk at Mount Tamborine, this one is actually free of charge) and you get a chance to be a bit closer to some of the native birds as well, very close actually… You can stay up here for the night as well, way too expensive for our pockets though… But then coming back from Asia everything here seems very expensive – even a cup of coffee with cake… It simply became a luxury… once in a long while kind of luxury as well… And when I was enjoying this little bit of luxury at O’Reilly’s one of the birds tried to share this experience with me! What
can I say? Sharing is caring… Well, not this time! 😉
Being in Australia wouldn’t really be a full experience without cuddling a koala, right? That’s definitely one of the photos you can see when looking for Queensland’s attractions… I have to say that getting used to Aussie prices turned out to be a really challenging and long process… A ticket to the zoo or other animal park would be somewhere around $40 and then a picture with the koala another $30. Add to it transport and some food and drinks and it comes down to $200 for a few minutes (probably not even that long) of pleasure of cuddling this gorgeous creature… I think it was a bit too early to be spending this amount of money so instead of cuddling a koala we simply decided to see one (or a few actually)… for free! Daisy Hill Conservation Park was the place to do that. It’s a lovely park with a few barbeque sites which happens to have a koala exhibit as well. You can find info about each koala which resides there as well as find a lot of information about koalas in general – their natural
habitat, their behaviour as well as the issues they are facing nowadays. It sure was exciting to see these gorgeous creatures from close up even despite the fact that most of them were simply sleeping when we were there. But then that’s their main activity it would seem – the activity that takes up to 20 hours per day! Now, that’s what I call a true sleepy head! I’m nowhere close to that… 😉
Koalas are only one of many species that you can admire on this continent. And the fact is that you really don’t have to pay anything at all to see native animals – in any park or just driving around you can see all sorts of colourful birds like rainbow lorikeets, white corellas, king parrots, crimson rosellas, cockatoos, noisy kookaburras and magpies or even ibises (I know they just call them dump birds here, still with their small heads, long peaks and legs and very round bodies they seem really fascinating to me!), then there are also lizards, snakes (I’m sure if you look close enough you would be able to see a few species – let me just say that I wasn’t and I’m
still not looking that closely), bats (many colonies around) and finally wallabies and kangaroos (some of the neighbourhoods are full of them actually)… If you’re lucky you might encounter some free animal shows as well, for example at one of the pubs near us, Bearded Dragon they have a free reptile show every Sunday, they do ask for a small donation after the show but then it’s really up to you whether you think it was worth it or not… One thing that seems to be attracting even a bigger crowd to this pub though is a… toad race! You have a chance to buy at auction one of the toads and hope that it will be fast enough to win the race… or maybe smart enough actually as in the end it wasn’t about how fast they were jumping but rather if they were jumping at all and whether it was a right direction… A lot of fun to watch it for sure and even more fun to see people getting all excited, encouraging their toads to move … Very unusual race to say the least!
I didn’t really feel the need to go to Brisbane as it
seemed just like another big city, still a good place for a day trip for sure… We walked around the shops or rather just did a bit of window shopping – seeing that my wardrobe consisted of less than 10 items at that time, all the new clothes behind the windows definitely looked very tempting… window shopping satisfied my fashion hunger though… A bit at least… 😉 Walking around definitely makes you thirsty, still seeing all the prices around put me off it a bit though… Yep, it was a fact, we wouldn’t be going out for drinks here too often, that’s for sure! For the price of one beer here we could easily get more or less totally drunk (if we wanted to that is) in Cambodia for example… Still once in a while you just need to treat yourself a bit, what’s the point of saving up if you can’t enjoy yourself once in a while, right? Expensive or not, a cold pint of beer on a hot day, well deserved!
The city itself isn’t exactly too exciting, still a long stroll through the centre and by the river always a pleasure… On another occasion in Brisbane
we had a chance to come by a market – a little bit less extraordinary than the ones in Asia, still we always have a good time visiting any markets, so this one didn’t disappoint either… I’m actually surprised how popular markets are in Australia. Every weekend there is a market somewhere… What a great way to spend your mornings! Really love it!
We were quite lucky to be in town for the Riverfire as well! I wasn’t sure whether it was the place we were standing at or in general whether the music accompanying the fireworks was simply too quiet, we couldn’t hear almost anything at all. The fireworks show was pretty good though… It would definitely be much better if it was synchronised with music a bit better. Still hordes of people showed up by the river banks to see it and we sure were happy to be participating in this event!
A few additional observations:
- One thing that I find very confusing is the whole pub-hotel-motel situation… Why on earth are the pubs called hotels here? All around the world a hotel is simply a place where you can
find accommodation… well not here – a hotel is simply a pub, and a hotel is a motel… Does it make sense? Nope, none at all… way too confusing…
- I found it very strange that you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarkets as well… Not a big deal, but a total waste of time to be honest… Not that it’s a part of daily shopping routine, still a lot of hassle if you want a bottle of wine for example… There’s no other way than to stock up then… On the other hand it’s a way to employ more people and take money for rent I guess though… Ah well… Like I said not a big deal, just a bit inconvenient… One thing that’s absolutely bizarre to me though are the drive-through booze shops!!! I’m not exactly sure whether it’s only Queensland’s invention or whether they appear all over Australia but they simply seem like a big contradiction to me – driving and boozing just don’t go together! I might be wrong though???
- Also another thing that really puzzled me was seeing people (mostly men actually) walking with no T-shirts and shoes! in the supermarkets… Seriously
that’s just wrong… Especially the no-shoes part… Can’t believe that they can’t afford a pair of flip-flops… So why walking barefoot then? What sort of statement are they trying to make? I simply don’t get it…
- On a positive note it turns out that you don’t really need to pay almost anything at all to have a bit of pleasure… Even in Australia! As there is a place here where you can indulge yourself sinking your teeth into a sweet waffle and cooling your mouth with a refreshing vanilla ice-cream… Yep! You guessed it, this place is called… Mc Donalds! Who would’ve thought that I would ever give any compliments to this franchise… Still on a hot day, walking around with your loved one, each munching on a 30 cents cone of delight – simply priceless… 😉
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