Sunday, October 13, 2013

Perth: A Nice Place To Live

After leaving Taipei in September, I had a master plan to visit one of my school colleagues who has relocated to Perth, Australia to get rich from the city's mining boom. Sadly, just before my visit my friend needed to return home in the US to attend to some personal matters.  With the puzzling doozy of figuring out what to do with a couple of non-refundable one-way tickets, I decided to make the long journey to the Southern Hemisphere that I had been planning all along. 

A public cemetery full of kangaroos!
Australia had been a part of my around-the-world journey three years ago, but I had not included the isolated Western port of Perth in my travels. And perhaps for good seems to not get many tourists besides Australians and other English-speakers on extended trips away from home. In fact, Perth may be able to lay claim to the title "most isolated city on Earth", as it lies more than 2,000 km from the nearest city of 100,000 people (Adelaide). 

Understandably, Perth is not a huge place. It has a population slightly under 2 million and a central district that can be walked easily in a couple hours. In many ways, it resembles an American city with sprawling suburbs. But Perth also seems very livable – it is blessed with a Mediterranean climate and many nice housing districts. Public transport is good and wine country is not far away. The city is clean, and I always enjoy seeing blue skies now that I live in Korea, where truly blue skies are rare.

Swan Valley wine tour was fun

In addition, Perth is remarkably diverse for a city of its size. Perth has attracted immigrants of all colors due to its booming economy. I was surprised by the number of Asians living there, especially Koreans! After residing in Korea for a year now I pick up quickly when I hear others speaking the Korean language...and I heard a lot of it in Perth! I also saw a lot of Korean restaurants (the food is far more expensive in Perth) and I was wondering, "What are all these Koreans doing here?" After my 5-day visit this is still a mystery.

Not having my friend to hang out with, I checked into a hostel, hoping to meet interesting people. Unfortunately, though the hostel I chose was very clean it was not conducive for meeting people, so I spent much of my visit to Perth alone. It wasn't quite what I wanted, though Perth was very easy to navigate solo.

My trip was relaxing, though I can't say it was terribly interesting. The weather was quite rainy and all the locals were apologizing for my terrible luck, as the weather is supposed to be quite pleasant during Perth's September. I walked around quite a bit my first day and headed to the Swan Valley vineyards my second. I got delightfully drunk at the vineyards and recalled how I missed the wine scene from my business school days at the University of Virginia. On my third day I visited the beach, but the rain placed a damper on my visit.

My most exciting day was clearly Saturday, my 4th day in Perth, when I headed to the port suburb of Fremantle. Unbeknownst to me, the local Aussie rules football club, the Fremantle Dockers, was in the semi-final of the national championship, and the town was mad for the team. After a fun tour of the Little Creatures Brewery, I made an Australian friend who showed me a great pub to watch the big match. Thankfully, my new friend was able to explain the rules of "footy" to me, and by the end of the night I was a loud "Freo" supporter like all the rest. The team won and the town went berserk! People were singing on the sidewalks, driving around honking horns, dancing and slapping high-fives at anyone who walked along. The Aussie spirit and passion for sports is similar to what I know from American football back home, which the Aussies refer to as "gridiron".

I'm now back in Korea, my semi-permanent foreign home. Returning to the English-speaking world served as relaxing time off for me, though perhaps a little too familiar. As a place to live, Perth is quite livable (and The Economist agrees), but as a place to visit it lacks the excitement and cultural unfamiliarity of much of Asia. I left happy to have seen Perth though knowing that had my friend not been living there, my valuable and limited vacation time would have been better utilized elsewhere.

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