We are coming to you live from Kardinya, which in case you don’t know, is not in Kenya. Kardinya, don’t you just love the name? Kardinya is a suburb of Fremantle, about 7km eastwards. And Fremantle is in itself a suburb of Perth, about 20km southwards.
The reason that I’m here is Prince. He’s on his solo ‘Piano & A Microphone’ Tour of Australia-New Zealand and will be in Perth on 25th February. So the way I figured it, since I’m going to be in Perth anyway, it would make perfect sense to stay for a week and it would be also sensible to stay in Fremantle because it’s cheaper than Perth and it’s so shall-we-say bohemian, rather than arty-farty. This is my second time in both Perth and Fremantle and I’m glad to report that the area is still hip and funky as it had been 20 years ago.
I’m flying Malindo Air, for the first time, because it’s cheaper than Air Asia and it’s got food and 30kg baggage included. Oh, btw if you’re Malaysian, don’t forget to apply for your visa before your trip. It’s A$20, online and the process is super-smooth.
Day 1 – 20th Feb – KL-Perth-Fremantle-Kardinya
The first thing that struck me when I touched-down at 5am was how genuinely helpful and easy-going everyone I talked to was – beginning from the Korean guy whom I bought the Optus pre-paid voice and data card from. Then, the bus-driver who explained the map from the airport to the Perth Train Station, you know I could go on and on but let me just summarise it like this – Aussies are nice and helpful people 🙂
I went to McD for breakfast in Perth, around 7am. While eating and looking out the window, I observed how badly in need of help the aborigines are. (Maybe we’ll talk about this later.)
I began to notice how pricey everything was. A bottle of mineral water was $2.50 for 500ml and $3.00 for 1.5litres, and these are the cheapest brands! ($ from hereon means Australian dollars or A$ or AUD, if you prefer. At this time of writing the rate was almost exactly A$1 = RM3.) Food is also expensive. Expect to be set back about $10 minimum for any of your meals. It’s a good thing I was ‘generous’ with my budgeting.
I took the train from Perth to Fremantle Railway Station ($4.50). I then walked down to Trish’s place, which I booked via AirBnB, my first time. Trish, about a 70-year old woman was a strange woman. She treats her guests like kids. If you can imagine a nagging mother from hell, you’re not far off. More on Trish the Witch later.
Because I arrived at Trish’s at 10am and the check-in time was 2pm, I had to make myself scarce till then. So I walked for about 15 minutes before I found what I was looking for – a bike rental shop, yay! I paid $60 for the bike for 6 days.
My first stop was the Fremantle (Freo from hereon, if you don’t mind) Market. It’s a Saturday and it was packed, to the hilt. I bumped into Malaysians – Malays – every few minutes. There was even a school trip of schoolgirls. Multiply the no. of Malays that I met by two to factor in the Malaysian Chinese and Indians would give you a rough idea of how many Malaysians there are in the area. My guess – 10,000 in Perth/Fremantle out of a total combined population of 2.2 million.
After a vegetarian Japanese lunch at the market, I headed down to the Esplanade Park, about a 3-minute bike ride and slept under a big tree. You see I only had about a 2-hour low-quality sleep on the plane. So indeed, I slept soundly for about 30 minutes.
It was then back to Trish’s place to formally check-in, or at least that’s what I thought. The Witch had left a note on my bags saying sorry the lights in your room don’t work and that she’d informed Airbnb to arrange alternative accommodation for me. WTF did you say? Exactly my thoughts.
So, from 4pm to 8pm, it was me and Airbnb on the phone and the internet trying to find a new place for me for the next 6 nights. To cut a long story short, I ended up at Kardinya at a place belonging to a 30-something couple who called themselves Will and Eve. It’s a nice 8-month old single-storey house in a nice quiet neighbourhood, 7km east of Freo. The price? RM1200 for 7 nights. But because of all the hassle I went through, Airbnb was gracious enough to give me a discount and I ended up paying only RM750 tor the 7 nights. Nice.
My friends, there are lessons here in booking with Airbnb. DON’T believe the reviews of the accommodations, like I did. It seems that they only publish the good reviews and hide the bad ones. So, if you wanna book via Airbnb, don’t book more than say 3 nights at a stretch; minimize your risk. And perhaps have a video-call with your host beforehand. That’ll probably give you a good idea what you’re getting into. And if you’re going to Fremantle, don’t stay with the Fremantle Witch!
Anyway, Will and Eve were a godsend. Nice, regular people. They’re helpful without being imposing which is working very well for me. I had my first shower, brushed my teeth and changed my clothes for the first time in more than 24 hours and went straight to my very nice bed J
Day 2 – Sunday 21feb – Around Coogee Beach
When I got up about 8am, Will had left for yoga on the beach. Eve went through with me on where everything was at the place, the alarm system and so on. I then biked down to the little row of fast-food places in Kardinya for breakfast at Subway. If you’re muslim and in case you’re wondering, in places like this, you have to make ‘compromises’ with your food (now don’t even get me started on the western toilet etiquette). I settled for a 1-foot chicken sandwich – about $11. Oh and the waiter, he’s a Malaysian Chinese from Cheras, lel. Told you there are many Malaysians here!
I then cycled down to the north side of Coogee Beach. It’s a string of beaches which were named from south to north – Coogee, O’Connor, Dog (yes Dog, lots of them) and South Beach. I loved the bike/running track along the beach. And the trees, they look crazy, like from another planet. I should find out what they’re called. Just look at this…
After cycling down all the way to Coogee, I went up all the way to South Beach, ‘south’ here is taken to mean the south of Fremantle, the place where I rented the bike. After finishing the last quarter of my 1-foot Subway sandwich, I’d wanted to chill at the Freo Market but there were just too many people, it being a Sunday and all. So off I went to Prison!
The Freo Prison is certainly worth a visit. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from the Market. It’s built around 1850 by convicts who were exported from England – to build it and then stay in it! Credit to them, the whole facility is beautiful and environment-friendly – the materials were all sourced from the area AND from the ships that they came in with! The timber, the building materials, the metal structures, everything. Very little waste.
Chatted with two men and a lady from the Cook Islands. Bet you don’t know where that is. Well neither did I, only had a vague idea. Cook Islands, which is part of New Zealand is about 2000km off the east coast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. It’s in the middle of nowhere! I asked the guy where he buys his cigarettes. The main island is only about 10km north-south and 10km east-west. The population is only about 10,000. That is why you don’t know much about it!
I then went back to the Market to buy boomerangs. It was time I got some new ones anyway. Bought it off a guy called Wayne who said he comes from generations of rang-throwers. You should check him out if you happen to be in the area. He’s quite difficult to miss, actually – if you see a guy throwing a boomerang inside the Market, that’s him!
Solat was under a huge tree at the Esplanade Park. Like I said, in places like this, practising Muslims have to make compromises. There are no masjids in Freo as far as I can tell.
I then rode to the Fish Boat Harbour where people park their boats and yachts. Nice, but I didn’t buy any 😉 After that, I headed to Bather’s Beach, further up north. Here, at Arthur’s Head, there’s a beautiful view of the bay (I should look up the name of the bay). Here it is….
I met an old Malay couple there, on their ‘honeymoon’ and when they asked me questions on where to go, what to do, how to go etc, it was then that I realized that although it was only my second day, I already knew quite a bit about Freo. To me, I answered their questions like a pro (if I may say so myself!). I hope Encik Hamid and wife are having the time of their life.
Some of my observations by the end of the second day:
- Cosmopolitan. Freo and Perth are so much more cosmo than it used to be. There are people from everywhere and they all seem to get along OK, unlike say the US. Are you listening, Mr Trump?
- Cycle-friendly. I love this feature of Freo. Bicycle tracks are everywhere. And motorists give you respect. Are you listening, Malaysian motorists?
- Clean. It’s super-clean. I love it. Nobody litters. Are you listening, Malaysians?
Day 3 – Monday, 22Feb – Kings Park
I cycled from Kaldinya to the Freo Train Station and took the bike on the train to Perth, a first for me; never taken a bike onto a train before. Got off at City West, one stop before the so-called Perth Underground, which is kind of like Perth Central train station. You can take your bikes onto the train anytime except 7 to 9am in the morning and 4.30 to 6.30pm, the rush hours.
My first stop in Perth – Perth Arena, where Prince will be playing on Thursday. I attempted to collect my ticket, but no luck. You have to wait till Thursday; they’re trying to deter scalpers.
I then headed to Kings Park, which I went to 23 years ago and it’s changed, it’s changed a lot. It’s a lot more visitor-friendly now. Nice walkways all over, information centres, cafes and lots of info about the vegetation. This, to me, was both good and bad. It’s good because it’s easy for people to get around but bad because it’s less au naturel and it’s more crowded. Still it was all so pretty and interesting that I found extreme difficulty getting myself to leave the Park! I had wanted to go the zoo and maybe the Bell Tower but had to scrap those. Kings Park, held me back. Btw the park was named Kings, to mark the ascenscion of King Edward VII in 1901.
Day 4 – Tue 23 Feb – Rottnest Island
The night before, I asked Will and Eve the No.1 place that they’d recommend to me and they both agreed on Rottnest Island. So, taking their advice, I got up early to catch the 8.15am to Rottnest from the B-Shed jetty in Freo. Got there in time but the tix were sold out. So I took the 9.30 there. The return ticket fare was $54, including my rented bike and after subtracting ‘Tuesday Special’ discount.
The original local name of the island was Wadjemup. ‘Rottnest’ originated from the words “rat’s nest”. When the white people first arrived they encountered what they thought were rats, a huge number of them. These creatures were actually quokkas, a marsupial, just like the kangaroos and various other Aussie animals. They are found only on this island. It’s about the size of a domestic cat, although some are a little bigger. Because visitors have been kind to them, they are not afraid of people at all.
The island is about 10km wide at its widest latitudinally and 4.5km north-south. I biked the longest 22km circuit from the north-east where the jetty was in a clock-wise fashion to the ‘west end’ and back, from about 10.30am to 5pm when we had to leave.
I spent a little too long on the westward trip because there were so many things to see – the views, the sweeeeping vistas, the crazy trees, the quokkas, fur seals. So, the return trip to the jetty was a bit of a rush. I guess the pix would do a greater job than my words. Here they are…
Will and Eve were right, if there is one place you visit while you’re at Freo, Rottnest it is.
When the ferry got back to Freo, we were greeted with what said to be an unusually cold summer day – 19C, which felt a lot colder since it was windy. I was literally shivering and had to buy a sweater which was about the same time I discovered that I had sunburn on my arms, thanks to Rottnest. Ironic.
I then hung around the street near Freo Market, watching buskers and watching people. And here’s the thing about watching people here – it’s all bright, funky and happy in the day. But after 7pm when the shops have closed, the other side of Freo shows its face. The down-and-outs, the crazies come out. And most of them are aborigines. It’s a sad, sad story. You want to get a real feel of this, just walk in to Hungry Jack’s near Freo Market after 7pm.
But really, these are just symptoms. The government has got to take affirmative action on this. No, I’m not talking about taking them off the streets but socio-engineering initiatives to tackle the problem at its root.
Day 5 – Wednesday 24Feb – Freo Chill
If the Tuesday had been cold, Wednesday was even colder, it went down to as low as 12C according to some reports. I didn’t do much today. I cycled up to Murdoch University, about a 10-minute bike ride. It’s a marginally-interesting place. There are at least 5 universities in and around Perth, starting from the best, from what I can gather –
1. UWA – University of Western Australia
This is place to be and to be seen at, by far the best. In fact, it’s one of the best in the world. Just being on the campus is an experience, as I outlined in the next day’s entry. Nice, if you have the credentials and you can afford it. The other 4 universities are actually not worth bothering about, or so I’ve been told.
2. Curtin University
As Will, my Airbnb host, described it, it’s a uni for rich Asian kids who are there just to have a good time. When Will was there, in his class of 30, there were only 2 English-native speakers – Will and another guy. According to Will, just looking at the lecture notes will give you a good idea on the quality of the university, or lack thereof.
3. Murdoch University
It’s OK, if no other university will take you.
4. Notre Dame University
5. Edith Cowan University
The Freo Arts Centre is really too small to make it worthwhile. The pieces were interesting but if you have to go out of your way to get there, don’t. I then did my first bout of shopping for the fam – t-shirts, caps, trinkets.
I went around quite aimlessly after that – to Arthur’s Head, Esplanade Park, the Freo Market area and here’s what I found – there are many people here who are living in poverty but are good at disguising it. While browsing at the shop-windows or having coffee in front of 7-11, I had about 6 people asking me for money. And get this – some of these people look like, you know, regular adults; not beggars or tramps which, to me, kind of makes it worse – like it’s a sadder, poorer place than you would have otherwise taken it to be.
Day 6 – Thu 25Feb – Perth and Prince concert
This was the big day. This was the reason I was in Perth. It’s the day of Prince’s “Piano & A Microphone” – 2 shows on 1 night in Perth – 8 and 10pm. I had begun writing a blog on the concert but I’m not gonna post it because there had been a number of writers who had been more eloquent in describing them. This round of solo gigs was really becoming a sort of mini-tour. Before Perth there had been gigs in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. All of them had been on short prior notice – 1 or 2 weeks. After ANZ, he had decided to go to Oakland in California and at this time of writing, 2×1 night gigs had already been done and 2 more nights with a similar format had been confirmed, also in the SF area. Do check the excellent reviews of the excellent concerts on the internet.
That morning, I cycled to Murdoch train station nearby, about 10 minutes from Kardinya and took the Mandurah line to Elizabeth Quay, with my rented bike on the train. I breakfasted at a little café owned by a Chinese Malaysian. There I met another Malaysian Chinese, Malay and Indian. Told you they were all over. At the Quay, I was fortunate to use the most high-tech toilet I’ve ever encountered in my life. Here, check this video clip…
I thought the Perth Bell Tower was a little over-rated.
I then cycled the short distance to the WA Museum, which was interesting, as far as museums go, except that most of it was closed for renovations. A guy at the museum was kind enough to print out my Prince ticket J
I then headed towards UWA, about 7km from the city centre. Will recommended that I went there. And just as he was right about Rottnest, he’s right again about UWA. The ride to the university was a beautiful, beautiful ride along the Swan River.
UWA was probably the most beautiful campus I’ve ever been to in my life – the huge trees, the quaint buildings, the ducks, the amazing views of the river. And to top it all, it’s one of the best universities in the world.
The Prince concert was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to in my life. I’m glad that I went out of my way to Perth for it just like I’m glad that I can cross-off the other big names that I’ve witnessed – James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Parliament/Funkadelic, Paul McCartney.
Day 7 – Fri 26Feb – Kardinya – Freo – Perth – KL
So this was the day I had to go. The plan was for me to cycle to Freo where I’d return my rented bike to South Beach Cyles and Will would pick me up with my 1 luggage bag to the airport for a small fee – we agreed on A$35; a regular taxi would have costed me about $45. I took a short detour before returning the bike – went to Freo Market to get souvenirs for the fam.
All in all, it was a fun trip. I was glad I went back to Fremantle and I’m really glad that I have actually seen Prince ‘live’ in real life. And yes, I’d like to go back to Freo and yes, I’d love to see Prince again, but next time with a full band, hopefully.