G'day from Oz!
I have arrived in Australia and so far Perth is proving to be a lovely place. It's very picturesque, and despite being 41c at the moment, is pleasant to walk around thanks to a fair sea breeze blowing in off of the river.
My journey here started at 6am yesterday morning as I departed from Hanoi. The drive out of the city can only be described as intense. I have never seen traffic like it, just absoutely incredible. Every square inch of available road was filled with a scooter, and cars were honking like mad and trying to force their way through the throng.
My flight to Singapore was fairly uneventful. Well, apart from the young Chinese woman that fell asleep and then at some point woke up, took off her jacket and used it as a pillow against my shoulder and went back to sleep. But she wasn't disturbing my reading, so I just let her carry on until we landed in Singapore.
Progressing through customs was a little more exciting then usual. As I landed in Terminal 2 and was flying out of Terminal 1 with a different airline, I had to officially enter the country, and then leave it again pretty much immediately. This was all well and good until I went to proceed through customs and was escorted through departures and off to a side room to face questions about why I entering and leaving the country so quickly. Thankfully the interrogation ended quickly and without the need for any rubber gloves.
This left me with 7 hours to kill in the airport. This I did with the aid of the airport shops and a disgustingly large burger from Burger King. I bought myself a Christmas present in the shops. A pair of noise cancelling headphones. I was just killing time in one of the store and they had a display of the Bose headphones. I put them on and it was like the world had disappeared. The background roar of the airport had reduced to nearly nothing. If you were there you'd have seen a man with a look of amazement and confusion on his fan standing there pulling at and letting go of one of the earcups of the headphones like an idiot having some kind of episode.
I had to have them.
Then I looked at the price SG$600 (£300).
I no longer had to have them.
I found other pairs, but they were big, heavy and bulky and again over £200. Then at the back I spotted a pair that cost £60. They were pretty much the same size as the Bose and a very similar design. I asked the woman if I could try them and she said not a chance, now how would I like to pay for the Bose's! However, the store manager overheard this and told her let me try them. They aren't as good as the Bose but they do still have the same magic silence effect and are probably 95% of the way there, so I bought them.
After one plane journey with them, I wish I'd had a pair for all my other journeys. On a plane, you still hear a bit of engine noise and in truth you wonder if they are that effective. Then the stewardess speaks to you, you take them off and actually recoil at the wall of noise that suddenly hits you. The plane journey was a pleasure. I'd actually been worried about being cramped up in a plane for 7 hours. However, it would appear that all my 8 hour bus trips have had the effect making long-haul economy seem positively spacious. I arrived in Perth at 4:55am, and then had to hang around the airport for another 90 minutes in order to catch the first shuttle into the city. I eventually arrived at the hotel at 7:30am, bleary eyed and really wanting a shower but knowing my chances of being able to check-in this early were remote. I was correct about that. The receptionist said that the room I'd booked wasn't ready and the current occupent had announced that they were extending their stay; so she was just in the process of switching me to a double room instead of a single, if I could just give her 15 minutes! I got to the room, chucked down my bag and fell asleep full clothed until 1pm.
Since then I've gone for a walk around. It all seems so quiet. I don't mean there are no people. Its just that there isn't the madness of an Asian city. There aren't thousands of bikes and cars honking. There aren't hawkers shouting every other second. It's busy, but it is just so quiet that it feels unnerving after Vietnam. Australian prices however scare me. Really scare me. There is a pub next door and they have a menu for them in the room. Here are a couple - 9" Pizza - $22, Ploughmans Salad - $23. Beef Burger - $21. Lamb Cutlets - $33. I've looked at other pub menus as I've walked around. These prices are pretty average. I walked alongside the river and had a milkshake earlier. Even that was $6.50. Even a Coke in a newsagents can be around $3.50. The days of chicken noodles, and a couple of beers for US$5 are over. I'm taking a cruise down to Freemantle and back in an hour or so. It has a buffet meal included. I wonder if they'll notice if I take and fill my rucksack whilst I'm there!