Week 1 with Ah Mike and family, Perth (11 - 15th July 2007)

Mum and I put up with Ah Mike and her family (husband Meng Ling, now also known as Daniel, and son, Ivan) from the 10th till the end of our trip in Perth, i.e. 22nd July. Ah Mike lives in the suburb of Southern River, which as the name implies, lies on the south side of the Swan River.

Wednesday, 11th July: We started our morning walking with Ah Mike and Ivan around her housing area. Nice and peaceful area, the gardens of the houses kept immaculate, and there were several places (ponds) you could walk to feed ducks.

Ah Mike had organised a Swan Valley Lunch Cruise with Captain Cook Cruises for us today (costs AUD84 per person). We took a bus from Livingston (another area on the south side of the river near Ah Mike's place) into the city. I found the bus system rather interesting; you could get a credit reloadable card called the SmartRider and swipe yourself on and off the bus - the same card works for the trains as well. It's rather handy in the sense it saves queuing time and the driver having to hole punch multi-trip tickets. At the main bus terminal, we changed to a CAT bus (CAT = central area transit) - this is a free bus service that goes around the main city area and you can't miss spotting one because it has a big cat logo on the bus! As we were still ahead of schedule, we decided to hop off the CAT in town and walked to the ferry terminal on Barrack Street where I got the opportunity to snap a few photos along our way.

We boarded the boat about 1.15pm heading upstream. Once on board, you can start drinking to your hearts' content. We only settled for our 1 bottle of white wine on the table - it was a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from Waters Edge; nice and smooth. Our buffet lunch was served shortly after we had our drinks – a very good spread of western and eastern food, and Ah Mike just couldn't resist indulging in her plateful of prawns :)

We then stopped by Waters Edge Winery for a short tour (aha, no wonder the wine on board!). This place houses Western Australia's oldest underground wine cellar where we did the wine tasting. We (us ladies) agreed that the Rose was good too. Back on the boat we went after the passengers finished with their tasting and purchases. As we headed back to the city, afternoon tea was served with entertainment from one of the crew members - she sang the cabaret songs very well in her powerful vocals. We arrived in Perth city around 4.45pm. It was a nice and relaxing cruise for 3.5 hours - it was a sunny day and the river was calm. Photos of our day trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601076212534/detail/

In the evening, we followed Ah Mike and her husband to their church life group meeting at Pastor Chin's house where we met some of their friends and chatted over supper.

Thursday, 12th July: We had breakfast at Lorna's house (Lorna is one of Ah Mike's friends) - she made us fried beehoon and pancakes (yum)! Ivan stayed back at Lorna's to coach her son Kumon while mum and I followed Ah Mike to her workplace, Central TAFE in Northbridge in the city. Ah Mike teaches English part-time at the institute, mainly to new migrants.

Ah Mike had to do some work so mum and I did a little tour nearby ourselves. Turns out the Australian immigration office is in the area so I went to queue up to speak with an officer about my eligibility to work and live in the country. Flashbacks of my days dealing with the NZ immigration office came to mind. After queuing for about 45 minutes, I must say, I was disappointed to find out that NZ citizens do not automatically get to be Australian permanent residents on entry into the country - Kiwis will need to apply for PR just like everyone else! Kiwis can work and live there without issues but are unable sponsor someone into the country in this case. I'm not sure if I want to go through the application process again at this point in time...

We briefly visited the Art Gallery and Western Australia Museum before heading back to meet up with Ah Mike and Ivan at TAFE. The rest of the day was spent walking along Hay Street and Murray Street shopping area (again, no shopping for mum and I) and this time I got to check out London Court. It is nestled in the middle of modern buildings and gives a medieval or old England feel as you walk through the lane. Lots of small shops hidden along the short strip and you need to climb the narrow stairways to get to shops on the 2nd and 3rd levels. From the Hay Street mall entrance, you can see a clock on the wall that chimes every quarter of an hour and when that happens, the knights on horses above the clock circles in the window. You'll find people (probably tourists like myself) gathered outside watching the unique display. Photos of our day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601077770788/detail/

Dinner was a home-cooked 'yong tau foo' prepared by Ah Mike. It's a Chinese soup dish consisting of clear fish broth, a variety of fish balls, crab sticks, cuttlefish and veggies. Very nice dish to have especially when the weather is cold!

Friday, 13th July: Uncle Meng Ling took a day off today to take us on a day trip visiting a few places north-east of Perth. Northam was the first place we stopped - it's about 100km from Perth and lies on the banks of the Avon River. Northam is also the only place in Australia where white swans have successfully bred. There are over 80 swans living on the Avon River but we only saw 2 (where are the other 78++???). One of the town's most treasured icons is the Avon River Suspension Bridge, believed by the locals to be the longest pedestrian bridge in Australia, spanning some 117 metres. It's a solid bridge - for a person like me who has slight fear of suspension bridges, I can say I felt safe, even with Ivan jumping and swinging the bridge. We didn't do much in the small town besides walking the bridge and the one main street. Pretty quiet and slow morning, and believe me, I really meant s~l~o~w...it took Ivan more than half an hour to get his cup of hot chocolate from the local coffee shop! Ponder this: WA also stands for 'Waiting Always'.

Our journey continued to York, another town near the area. York is the oldest inland town in Western Australia, settled 2 years after Perth. We first went to Mount Brown Lookout - here, you could get a panoramic view of the township and surrounding countryside.

We lunched at the local fish and chips shop, and visited the Court House and Town Hall before heading back to Perth. Photos from our day trip: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157601209063971/detail/

Saturday, 14th July: Ivan and I decided we needed to exercise so we went out for a jog this morning. My god! After not exercising regularly for a few months, I found it difficult to keep up with Ivan! I think we did fast walking more than actual jogging - he was running and I was lagging behind. I definitely need to head back to the gym again...

Ah Mike and family decided that we should head back to Caversham Wildlife Park today since we didn't have the time to venture the park our first time there with the tour group. What really cracked us up in laughter was when mum said that she had never been to Caversham (mum, we were here last week!).

We spent about 2 hours walking around the place. I only managed to get 1 photo taken because the camera's battery was playing up (not sure why the battery drains so quickly). A photo of the flying foxes at Caversham:

Uncle Meng Ling did a BBQ dinner for us tonight. It was a really quick BBQ with Uncle Meng Ling doing most of the work, chucking meat and sausages onto the BBQ and serving them all at once when cooked. Not the usual type of BBQ I've had...oh, he's got a really nice BBQ set - those big ones that I want to get for my future home :)

Sunday, 15th July: We followed Ah Mike and Uncle Meng Ling to the 10.30am church service at their church, Perth Christian Life Centre. It didn’t look so much like a church but a large community hall filled with people from different ages and cultures. It was an interesting service with a live band playing (Ivan was the keyboardist) – it felt like going to a live concert! We met some of their friends like Lorna and those we met that night at Pastor Chin’s place and chatted after the service.

After lunch, we all went for a drive along Sunset Coast – beautiful sandy beaches along the coastal drive. It was rather windy and I was wearing sport shoes so didn’t walk down to test the water temperature (but I think it’ll still be cold, maybe not as cold as Wellington waters in winter). Didn’t see many people in the water – a few stray surfers here and there. There were several bars and backpackers along the coastal drive packed with youngsters drinking (on a Sunday??). I had forgotten to take my camera today so only got a few photos on my mobile:


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