Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Australia 101; Perfect Storm

Australia for Dummies (stuff I didn't know)

The Commonwealth:
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and a bunch of other countries are part of the British Commonwealth. That means:
- they still worship the Queen of England and think the royal family is a big joke
- the highest court for all these countries, akin to the Supreme Court, is in England
- all of these countries have their own Prime Minister but there is also a representative from the U.K. in each country. The representative in some cases can step in and run things.

Boxing Day:
You know that weird holiday that occurs after Christmas that is on almost every calendar you buy in the U.S.? In an informal survey done by Randystravels, most Australians didn't know its origins or even why it was called Boxing Day. All they knew was it was the day after Christmas, it was a holiday, and it was another excuse to get hammered. Boxing day goes way back to feudal times and tradionally, land owners would give serfs used Christmas boxes with some coins in them as a thank you. (Kind of like slave appreciation day.)

Is a state in Australia.

Flies in Melbourne:
Melbourne is a clean, beautiful, modern city, except for one thing: in the summer the place is invaded by flies. You'll see women decked out in the finery walking down the streets swatting away as if they were bushwacking through Maine during black fly season. Swatting the flies is called doing "the Aussia wave."

Night Sounds of Surfers Paradise

Whoosh, Whoosh:
At night you can see and hear giant fruit bats flying around in the trees. The things look like huge black cats with wings and they are so large they leave a shadow on the ground.

Wahh, Wahh:
Drunken coed crying jag. Usually, after 11:00 you start to hear girls who have had to much to drink crying on their friends shoulders about something. One conversation I overheard, the girl was crying because someone had the nerve to call her immature. The nerve indeed...

Tattoos and Exotic Hairdoos
I have never seen so many wild hair spikey hair cuts, piercings, and tattoos -- even on people over 40. With unemployment less than 5 percent, one can only surmise that the country has a lot record stores and software companies that can employ these people.

Silly Names for Places: Another Vestige of Australia's English Heritage

These were all stops on the train to the Melbourne airport
Gymple North

Drought in Australia

The country is experiencing a severe drought so they have taken various measures to preserve water:
- signs in hotels and public places telling you how to do everything from shower to shave to flush the toilet.
- toilets: as in Asia, the toilet flush mechanism has two buttons: one for a half flush and the other for a full flush. There are also trough urinals. These are cleaner than those in Asia, but you still end up getting your shoes all wet and sticky.

Spiciest Dish of My Trip
So far, to get enough fire in my food I've had to add hot peppers or some kind of fiery spice. When I ordered the Chilly Chicken from a Malaysian restaurant in Melbourne called Bismi's Goldan Fork (spelling is correct), I didn't need to add anything -- it was hot as hell!

Why Things Went so Badly in Australia: The Perfect Storm

Due to a combination of poor planning on my part and some bad luck, Australia was pretty much a bust.
- Bad planning part 1: originally, I had planned to take a tour called the Great Ocean Road. When I got to my hostel they had one crappy 3-day trip. I wanted something longer, but it was approaching high season and I didn't want to risk ending up on a park bench, so I looked for other options and grabbed the first one that looked easy -- Surfers Paradise. I took a little risk and lost.
- Bad planning part 2, Hostels: Since my one bad experience with a dorm room, I've always gotten my own room. When I did an online search for hostels at, I couldn't find many hostels offering that option in Melbourne. The hostel I found was nice enough but there was minimal social interaction.
- Bad planning part 3, Hostel/Tour Combo: Like South Africa and New Zealand, Australia has a bus/hostel arrangement that goes all the way up the Eastern coast. I just didn't know about it and didn't think to ask. (It's called the Oz Bus). Oh, well.
- Violation of my primary rule of traveling solo: Never, ever, stay in a big anonymous hotel in a Western city for more than a day or two. I stayed in Surfers Paradise for 8 days. I booked my trip on for 8 days and couldn't change it without huge hassles.
- Bad Luck: the travel knowledge of hostel I found in Melbourne was limited. Surprisingly, they didn't mention Oz bus and didn't have literature for it. In addition, the more social/party hostels were booked.
- More Bad Luck: I couldn't have picked a worse spot than Surfers Paradise. But once I got there, I noticed that there was a hostel right next to my hotel. Oh, well.