Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Brisbane-- the last stop in Australia

Brisbane was the last-- and in some ways the best-- stop in Australia. It's a good-sized city on the middle of the east coast, with the waterfront facing the Brisbane river rather than the nearby Moreton Bay. There are some beautiful parts of riverfront on both sides, inluding parks, cafes, boardwalks, and a nice pedestrian bridge right in the middle of everything. It was a real pleasure to walk along it, and in fact that's where I kept finding myself, on one side or the other. They have a terrific botanical garden right downtown which features a large swath of rainforest you could almost get lost in if it weren't for the paved pathways in it. There's even a decent little beach right on the riverside, used by the townspeople a lot, as the weather here is subtopical, and even pretty hot on the autumn days I was there. I've included a pic of some of the scenery here for the guys who might appreciate it.

There's also another pretty park that took me some time to get to; it was all uphill and I even had to go through a huge train station to get to it, but it was worth it-- it had nice ponds, tropical gardens with plants even Chuckie might not know of, a playground, lots of benches and viewing platforms, even a fairly-good sized lake (pictured), not bad for the middle of the city.
On the taxi ride into town the first night, we passed lots of young people lining up to get into nightclubs, but as usual I was too tired to check any of them out. My hotel wasn't close to them, but was right outside the central district yet still in a quiet suburban neighborhood. It had a peaceful garden breakfast patio where you could hardly hear a car, but I could walk to the riverfront in minutes. It was a lucky choice I blindly selected months earlier on the internet.

In fact, the choice to go to Brisbane at all was pretty random; I knew I wouldn't want to have to go back to Sydney to fly out of the country when I was done, and Brisbane happened to pop up as one place to try. I knew absolutely nothing about it then, and not much more when I arrived, having purchased only a tiny little guidebook on Australia. I found I didn't need more: upon arriving in each new city, the hotels always had racks of maps and brochures featuring all the latest attractions, tours and other things to see & do. And since I always spend at least one of the days simply walking around the core of each town, I didn't need more.

The last day I was there I was approached by some young people recruiting others to work for WSPA, an animal welfare group. I obviously couldn't help them, but I asked if I could take their picture as I don't have many photos of the Australians themselves. I also took a photo of what appears to be a giant spider on a bridge, which is not trick photography; I just wanted a closeup of some of the local insect life.

I also spent some hours exploring the Brisbane museum, a great stop to learn a little more about Australia and its plants, animals, gemstones and history. They have a great exhibit about the comparative sizes of animals, featuring an interesting assortment of dozens of mounted animals poised as if they're all walking together in a line, from polar bears to crabs. And unusually for here, it was free admission.
All in all, I liked Brisbane. If I come back to Australia, this is one place I want to revisit.

Next: on to Asia, starting with Thailand!

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