I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

For those about to blog

pond at the ferry terminal
Originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.
Hell's bells, is it really 3 days since I left Perth already? I guess it is. So after arriving and being delivered to my hotel by the racist cabbie I took a look out of the window and thought, hell, ain't a bad place to be, this. Started uploading a bunch of photos but it was going to take forever and it was getting dark, so with a flick of the switch the lights were out and I went to explore Perth by night.

Lots of riffraff hanging around in Perth town centre. I thought maybe I'd taken a turn off the main business drag one street too early because all of a sudden I thought I was in Croydon or Nuneaton. Crowds of pissed underage schoolkids, the odd surly looking problem child in a hoody skulking around on their lonesome, and benches of goths or hobos, united by their taste in cheap alcohol. Badlands indeed. I didn't really feel in any danger, it just didn't appear to be that nice a place. More importantly, my beer radar had failed me (actually it was more likely my map reading that went wrong) and I couldn't spot any boozers.

Carried on being a night prowler and eventually I was back in business, in an area with a few bars in it. But they were all heaving and I was tired. so in the end I didn't bother going in any. It was quite a trek back to the hotel anyway. Actually en route, far closer than the town centre, I had come across a pub, but it was called Fenian's Bar and I checked the politics of that word with Mark -- couldn't remember if it meant I'd be lauded or bombed, turns out the latter is more likely. Not that I imagine for a moment it was a genuine Irish republican hangout, but still. Don't want to go breaking the rules and getting kicked in the teeth.

So back at the hotel I sat at the bar and had a couple of drinks. Thought about having a whiskey on the rocks but beer was a better idea. I can recommend the Matilda Bay Redback wheat beer.

Thursday was my one full day in Perth. I'd discovered thanks to THE INTERNET that Bon Scott's grave is in Fremantle, a suburb/neighbour (not sure of its proper status) of Perth, a short trip on the train or a longer trip on a boat. I figured a pilgrimage was required, so after getting some info from the concierge I took a trot along the river to the ferry terminal and got myself on the 0945 cruise.

Fantastic cruise it was. Perth's skyline is really nice, the Swan river is gorgeous, and the weather was perfect. Learnt a few bits and bobs from the commentary -- 1 in 3 families in the Perth area has a boat, the Swan river is about the size of Sydney harbour but only 4 metres deep for much of it so unusable for boating, Western Australia has a population of 2 million but is 3 times the size of Texas, or 100 times the size of Singapore (which has a population of 4 million!), and stuff. Best bit of the trip was when we were twice accompanied by dolphins swimming alongside us, playing in our wake, and just generally being visible. Couldn't get any photos 'cos I hadn't managed to get a decent seat on the boat, having boarded late because I was busy trying to source some diet coke.

So, Fremantle. There's a free bus there called the CAT (Central Area Transit? something like that) that you can ride on, and 4 of them in Perth town centre. Unfortunately all the maps I'd seen of Fremantle didn't show the cemetery, so straight off the boat I walked towards the tourist information centre. Actually that's not quite true -- I spent the first 10 minutes or so walking the completely wrong direction, through a car park, waiting for a way to cross the train tracks to appear until I realised I'd screwed up. But when I did get my bearings the information centre was helpful and told me I had to get a bus "because it's a 20-25 minute walk otherwise".

Ignored their advice and turned the opposite direction outside, deciding to walk. Got as far as Fremantle prison where I considered taking a jail break, but figured, no, no diversions. Time to shake a leg and carry on.

Walked for another 5 minutes or so, the heat was too much and I was still in the town centre, so I waited for a bus. The 146 local bus, not a touristy thing at all, got me up to the cemetery. I took AGES walking around the graves, not having the faintest idea how to go about finding the prize. I tried to channel Bon into telling me where he was, but to no avail, and was just about to give up (in fact I'd SMSed Kevin to tell him I was doing so) when a posse of gardeners appeared, asked if I was looking for Bon Scott's grave, and drove me to it in their little wagon.

Bon Scott's grave is a small thing, no headstone, just a square plaque. It's right next to a really big BON SCOTT MEMORIAL GATE and is fronted by a walkway containing stars with the word "Bon" on them. Good on me for missing it. I took my hat off, and a few pictures, uttered "Good on ya, Bon" and made my way.

OK. This is hard work. I'm not littering the rest of this entry with AC/DC song titles. Last two thoughts about the cemetery though: the space next to Bon is empty, which made me wonder if there's a money making opportunity to be made in graveyards worldwide -- "be buried next/near to [celeb X]!"; and it's bad form to take the piss out of the dead, probably, but I've got a message for dear departed Doris: in the next life, don't marry someone with a surname of Norris.

Went round the corner to the bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. Every time a bus appeared on the horizon my hopes were raised (the only bus going along that road was the one I wanted), and every time they were dashed as a bus numbered 000, going to "out of service" thundered past. I went so far as to swear out loud as the third 000 approached, only for him to stop, let me on, and take me where I wanted to go. "I'm out of service mate, you can't pay me. Where you going?" Sweet.

Back in Fremantle I wandered around the town centre. I really really liked it. Very few buildings more than 3 or 4 floors high, a bunch of shops and bars and restaurants, a really nice atmosphere, etc. Probably helped that the weather was so good, but I imagine it's like that a lot anyway. I went for a half of stout in the Sail & Anchor, a pub with microbrewery that I'd seen advertised in one of the things to do pamphlets I got. After that I figured I'd go get that CAT to see what the whole place had to offer, and discovered that I'd pretty much already walked all the interesting bits.

The long trawl out of town (I swear it only goes along this particular road because the restaurants pay them to) gave me the chance to read some of the local rag I'd been carrying around with me, and hey presto there was a special supplement going on about the best places and things to eat and drink in the Perth area. Taking my lead from its recommendations I went to Clancy's Fish Pub and had a Feral White beer. Very nice, both of 'em.

Time to bugger off. Got the train back, turned out it was a semi-express missing out the first 4 or so stops on the way. Fast, clean, on time, cheap, etc etc. Grand stuff. Now, I'm familiar with all the "please give this seat up to the elderly, or people with kids and shopping, or just generally people less able to stand" stuff, but I'm also familiar with how schoolkids act -- in the UK, at least, I can't imagine a sign saying "SCHOOL STUDENTS USING THE 50-CENT FARE SHOULD STAND FOR ADULTS" working in the slightest.

Back in Perth town centre I thought, right, the train station is on the southern border of Northbridge, the district with all the nightlife. I'll go and have a look around there. Unfortunately what I thought and what I did were two different things, as I got hopelessly confused by the myriad exits from the station and ended up back in Nuneatonville. Bollocks. Took a walk back to one of the main roads I was familiar with via London Court, then back to the hotel. Knackered after a bunch of walking and all the heat and stuff, didn't bother going out again. I had some food and drink in the bar downstairs but turned in early, especially because my alarm was set for 0500.

0925 flight to Hong Kong meant checking in at 0645, 0700. :-( So I got up early to pack up, go downstairs and checkout, and get me a cab. Safely ensconced in the lounge I fixed myself up some breakfast and a couple of diet cokes, then went to explore the terminal. Stared at the electronics for a while but didn't buy anything, did end up with a shirt though. The flight itself was fairly empty in business class, and I had no-one sitting next to me. A much nicer plane than my previous 3 Qantas affairs, this was equipped with their Skybeds which are hoofing great things with all manner of seat controls including a massage button, which makes the back of the seat undulate and stuff. I pressed that a lot throughout the flight, it was great fun.

Audio/Video on demand meant I got to choose what I wanted to watch, but I'd had to use the headphones from the seat next to me because mine only worked in one ear. I watched Lucky Number Slevin (liked that a lot), some of V For Vendetta (got bored very quickly), all of The Castle (supposedly the funniest Australian film ever, I pity Aussie audiences if that's the case), and most of Memento (because we started our descent during it and I had to stop, I was getting bored of it anyway). Guy Pearce does a passable impression of looking like Brad Pitt, I thought. It also reminded me a bit of me on this holiday, taking notes to remember things and stuff. Of course I'm not trying to hunt down a rapist and killer, but just note down things to write here, but still.

No-one waiting for me at Hong Kong airport to take me to the hotel even though I'd booked it and the confirmation mail I got 2 days before arriving had mentioned it, and had the correct flight listed. Found the hotel's desk and presented myself whereupon they accused me of having changed flights because I wasn't due yet. Apparently I was arriving on the flight from Sydney in about an hour. Erm, no, I'm here. Mind you they didn't ask for any ID to prove I was the Mr Foreman they had on their list, so WTF? Anyway they sorted me a car out sharpish and 40 minutes or so later I was in my hotel, astonished by Hong Kong's breathtaking ugliness.

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