Australia Travel Series: Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney
AUSTRALIA - Brisbane
Part 1//Arriving in Brisbane
Hong Kong; 13th Nov, 7:48 pm
No one starts off on a "find yourself" journey without breaking some self-inflicted good habit, so naturally, I checked into the Plaza Premium Lounge at the airport, and settled into a couch with vitasoy and a bowl of pimple inducing nuts.
Figures, first thing I do is fall back into the practice of ruining my body, a practice I cultivated so thoroughly at college and thought I outgrew. It is strange that I find myself in a drift once more, the exact month I passed my work probation last year.
Have I changed? Not in ways that matter, probably. Still too wistful, too self-doubting and -
Though I don't deserve to say it -
It's hard to qualify this ennui as unhappiness. I'm not sure what this is. It catches me off-guard at the most contentment-worthy, quiet moments:
under the hot shower spray, skin itching, mind fervent and hooked on the cold gaps between my toes; rushed with the exhaust sigh of the bus, its rumbling past me, headlights cutting corners but never the cool mysterious haze above us; my friends filling up the noiseless monotony of work nights, my hand on their knee, briefly;
even when, laughter is my answer to the most irrelevant humour, just so inexplicably funny - I can't find meaning.
It hurts a little, that in my family's acceptance and support there will still be skepticism. The always urging for me to find what I'm looking for, to know what I'm doing when I don't, to not waste time. It is but only a touch of what I put on myself. I want to reassure them that I'm running towards this doubt, not away from it, even though I'm running blind, terrified, and only half willingly.
Is there any way I can transpose the misgivings I have into words? If I could teach myself the language to my own feelings; maybe I'll stop wavering. What I have instead, now, are pages and pages of prose without an answer.
Brisbane, GOMA; Nov 14th
"When dragonflies fly low, it will rain. When dragonflies fly high, there will be sun. When dragonflies fly in between, it will drizzle." (A girl humming)
The dragonflies are flying high today. I touched down in Brisbane a little past 8 a.m, and managed to get myself to George Williams Hotel within an hour. The problem with overnight flights is that sleep hardly comes. I needed a nap to rejuvenate. If I left home with the intention of a break, I’m going to give myself one. This trip wasn’t for hurried schedules.
By the time I was ready to brave the city, the noon sun was heating up the streets. My first impression was wow, look at this open space… look at the sky!
Hong Kong provides spectacular views of the harbor front, and some great aerial views. Brisbane downtown unravels the city with generous boulevards and buildings spread broadly, interspersed with grassy parks. High-rises, no less stately than buildings in Central, have enough space in between them to look through.
Somewhat wary of travelling alone for the first time in years, I decided to limit my area of exploration. Brisbane Square was a touch familiar from a family trip ages ago, but I’ve never been beyond Victoria Bridge. For all that Hong Kong was surrounded by water; to walk over it was a novel experience. It was interesting to see chrome buildings give way to flatter constructs. The view at the middle of the bridge renders quite the disparity; the central business district on one side and a more art and culture scene on the other.
Southbank is a streak of museums and relaxation parks; from the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is a stretch of promenade that extends to Queensland Maritime Museum. I turned right after crossing Victoria Bridge, navigating my way past the Queensland Art Gallery of more traditional art, admired the quirky green exterior of the State Library, and realized I lucked out on timing. The GOMA was hosting a Yayoi Kusama exhibition.
I’ve never been an art purveyor, but all the exhibits at GOMA were (duh) works of art. Yayoi’s dot-filled universe was hypnotizing, and there was even an interaction art-room where visitors could add their own mark to the walls.
In another sector, Bea Maddok’s photo-etching caught daily commuters in black and white arrest. The aboriginal section had an impressive array of tribal headwear in all its iterations. John Pule’s series of vignettes expressed through vivid red clouds were somewhat violent but spell-binding, and Dinh Q. Le juxtaposed an often heroic portrayal of military helicopters in western media with accounts of Vietnamese farmers, exposing the very real fear that existed alongside awe.
Some people think museums are boring, that only artists can appreciate all the fine details that go into an art piece. But I find that the key to appreciating art comes from patience, to sit down and take our time looking at not only the physical product, but also to think about where this art came from. Is it only trying to appease aesthetics? Or is there some other motivation behind its creation? There’s always something to learn about an artist from their work.
It makes me wonder what people can see in my writing, what kind of secrets crept their way into my words.
Southbank Parklands, Clem Jones promenade; 2:44 pm
I'm sitting on a bench midway through the promenade, cross-bank view framed by the protruding trees behind me. It is a cinema of the highest definition, the rustling above me, the wrangling dissonance of construction on the opposite bank, the tuning in-and-out conversations of passerby - even the flap of the plastic cordon, breathing life into the sharp renderings before me. To sit and take in the light chill, let it run through me, is a perfectly mundane delight.
Who is out on a Monday early afternoon? Couples young, old, foreign; cyclists, a lone me.
Of all things to find, a Nepalese pagoda. A somewhat out-of-place, incongruous presence made logical only against the backdrop of bamboo groves, but a small shadow beneath the Ferris Wheel.
A wetland next to open air and river; a network of bridge ways for the explorer, dark wood patchy under the sun. Not what I expected but, peaceful. The random iguana, still when eyes land on it.
The Arbour Walk is beautiful, fun, mysteriously charming. The Clem Jones Promenade is sunny, open and calming. I edged along the riverbank, enjoying the wind-backed heat for once. When that got too much, I moved into the ample shade provided by sturdy trees lining the walkway. I passed by a boat pool and Streets Beach, a small man-made “beach” that appeared out of nowhere. I’ve never quite seen anything like it? There was a fair crowd of university students sunbathing and throwing a volleyball around.
My favorite part of the promenade has to be the Riverquay Green. It is a small patch of slope leading right up to waterfront, with random springy trees. I don’t know how long I sat there. There were these three boys, probably around eight years old, carting heavy cameras around while chasing some birds.
When goosebumps lined my arms, I rounded off my walk under the flower trellises spanning the Arbour trail. Pink isn’t my colour but the canopy was vibrant. I broke off to hit Grey Street, where restaurants lined the road. It was a little early for dinner, but I was hungry and suddenly very tired. Without much thought, I sat down at a Mexican restaurant and ordered chicken tacos.
It was so quiet. I sent a couple of photos to a few chats.
Random conversation Stu startled me on my trek back to the hotel. Taking another photo of the flowers hewn above me, the last thing I expected was for someone to come up behind and say, “You’ve been taking quite a few photos”.
Not gonna lie, I was a bit wary. Hong Kong people are rarely this friendly after all. Stu was pushing his bike along, gloved hand gripping the handles. His hair was shorn short and he was wearing sunglasses. I couldn’t read his face.
“Yeah, first time visitor and all.”
“Reckon you got a good shot?”
I shrugged as he fell into pace. “Probably? I don’t do this photo taking thing often.”
He held out a hand. “Hi, I’m Stu.” After I return introductions, he asked, “So where are you from? Your accent says North America but…”
“Hong Kong,” I said. “But I’ve been told.”
I found out he worked as a software engineer and he’s from Melbourne. “Oh, I’m heading off the Melbourne next week. Any recommendations on where to go?”
“Before that I should probably warn you about the weather.”
Our conversation then took a detour into grammar. “But why do people use the word ‘like’ when they’re not even drawing comparisons? That’s lazy grammar,” Stu pushed.
“I mean like,” I replied, “It’s a habit I’m trying to get rid of but it sticks."
We shook hands and split ways at Victoria Bridge. “Nice meeting you,” our farewells echo.