STE’s Holiday Editor, Tony Taylor, reports on a trip with his wife to Australia in February 2020, returning just before the Coronavirus pandemic took hold. They called in to Jakarta on the way.
We decided on this trip, our fourth visit to Australia, to explore places which we had not previously visited, so this was not the usual tourist itinerary.
We flew KLM from Humberside Airport via Amsterdam to Jakarta, Indonesia, where we stayed at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Jakarta. This new hotel was excellent, with friendly staff, pleasant rooms, a good breakfast and a swimming pool. It is in Jalan Gajah Madah, an area with which I was not familiar, despite my many previous visits to Indonesia.
The next day it was Chinese New Year, and after a late and leisurely breakfast, we walked the 25 minutes to the Old City (Kota Tua). This is a pedestrianised area with old Dutch colonial buildings, interesting museums and street performers. Many students wanted to practise their English with us – something I’ve always found when visiting Jakarta over the last twenty years!
The following day we walked 20 minutes to the Chinese street market and temple where we spent several hours. Jakarta is always hot and humid, and one needs to be aware of this before undertaking a walk.
The streets around the hotel were typical of the city, not particularly clean, with people sitting, chatting and cooking food (including warungs – street traders). There was a clean smart air-conditioned shopping mall directly behind and accessible to the hotel.
After three nights in Jakarta, we flew on to Darwin, Australia, via Singapore, six and a half hours flight in total. Darwin is not on the usual tourist itineraries, but we chose to visit as it is the nearest Australian airport to Singapore. We stayed at the Ramada Suites by Wyndham, an apartment which enabled us to catch up on laundry!
February is the wet season with temperatures in the region of 32°C. Many attractions and events are not open until the dry season, but we still found several interesting things to do during our three day stay.
We used the red hop-on-hop-off bus to see the sights of Darwin and to visit various attractions, including:
• Museum and Art Gallery of Northern Territories which housed an excellent collection of fauna and an exhibition about the devastating cyclone of 1974.
• Military Museum and the Defence of Darwin Experience. This taught us a great deal about the Japanese surprise bombing of Darwin, damage to buildings, ships sunk and the 240 or more fatalities. The same planes had previously attacked Pearl Harbour!
• Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility, which included an RFAS plane virtual reality flight.
• Darwin Botanical Gardens. A pleasant stroll in the warmth with a good tearoom.
We also walked to the Darwin Waterfront (restaurants and cafés) and had a drink at 5 pm, the quiet happy hour! This agreeable popular waterfront has gardens and an artificial beach.
Apparently most tourists go to Darwin to visit the National Parks. However they are a few hundred kilometres from the city and could not be included in our short visit.
We then flew from Darwin to Brisbane (a four and half hour flight) where we stayed at the Point Hotel for five nights.
Brisbane has a free City Hopper Ferry Service which runs along the Brisbane river from close to the Point Hotel to the city centre, where we checked out the Visitor Centre in the Queens Mall. Here we obtained advice on what to see and do in Brisbane and also learnt about the Brisbane Translink Gold Card, which enables the purchaser to use the city buses and the river catamaran service and to get discounts on visitor attractions.
During our four days in Brisbane our highlights were:
• City Botanic Gardens. A short riverside walk from Eagle Street Pier from the City Hopper ferry. These are pleasant level gardens for strolling with plenty of seats. On Sunday there was also a small market.
• Southbank Park Lands. Again reached by using the City Hopper ferry. This is also a good level riverside walk, with many stalls, eating places, swimming pools and even an artificial beach! At the weekend it was very busy with families enjoying the amenities, which included free entertainment by musicians and singers.
• Central Business District, with the old City Hall and a few other old historic buildings between the skyscrapers and shopping malls. My wife was impressed with the shopping centre, but due to lack of time, was just treated to a walk through!
• Mount Coot-tha Lookout. This is a half hours’ bus trip from the city. The summit has a café and magnificent views over the city. From here you can appreciate the size of the city and see the high-rise skyscrapers in the centre. The service bus and/or free shuttle bus takes about five minutes back down from the summit to the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. These Botanic Gardens were relocated here after several floods damaged the city Botanic Gardens. Paths were good and specified areas were well marked including the Japanese garden.
• Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a 40 minute bus ride from the city. The entrance charge for over 60s was $A25 (about £13) but proof of age was required! In addition to a number of areas with koalas, visitors could feed wallabies, have a photo taken with a koala, and see many animals including Tasmanian devils, wombats, snakes, lizards, dingoes and many bird species.
• The Catamaran Service (the CAT). We used this to see the city from the river travelling to both termini.
We left Brisbane to fly to stay with my brother in the Adelaide hills, from where we then made two minitours to Tasmania and to the Flinders Ranges.
POSTED 7th JULY 2020 by TONY TAYLOR.