27.05.2016 - 30.06.2016 8 °C
The morning we left for Canberra from Sydney's Central Station was a little bit of a frantic one. We had been working to a departure time of 11:30am so we got ourselves together and loaded up with our bags, walked to the bus stop to head into town to catch our coach. As we were waiting for the bus something (let's call it my intuition) urged me to ask Lauren to check the coach times again. It turns out that the coach was leaving at 11am and, it already being 10:15 we realised we probably wouldn't make it to the station in time. The next 10 minutes involved us hysterically flapping around trying to figure out how to order or flag a taxi. Luckily we managed to get in one and $40 later we were at our coach just before it set off on its way.
After 3 or so hours we arrived in Australia's not so well-loved capital; Canberra. Vanhie was there and greeted us with a huge smile and big hug.. We stopped for lunch at a local shopping centre where we had a very delicious Malaysian soup and caught up. Immediately we noticed an aesthetic difference with the inhabitants of Canberra; there were people walking around with piercings, brightly coloured hair and tattoos, there were fat people and there were people with skin colours darker than beige. In fact, Canberra was the first place we had seen native Australians - a bunch of aboriginal kids were on a school trip.
Vanhie took us to her family's home where we hung out and chatted about Laos (where Vanhie's parents are from). Soon after we made it to Zoe's (where we were staying) and met her cute, tiny little dogs. Stinky is Zoe's long-serving, ball-loving little dog who's very friendly and playful. Poppy is the new addition to the family; a rescued (from euthanasia) chihuahua-cross with one eye and 5 teeth. Unlike Stinky, Poppy isn't so friendly; in fact she's downright hostile to anyone other than Zoe and her partner Ash. Even Zoe's long-time housemate and friend Marty isn't safe from the onslaught of angry barks, growls and bites (albeit gummy bites). It took us a day but eventually Poppy took to Lauren and I and would even come and sit on our laps. The funny this is that if we left the room, say to go to the toilet, and came back into the room, Poppy would treat us as new and dangerous strangers and try and attack us all over again until she eventually calms down. Amazingly though, Poppy and Stinky get on really well - Poppy follows Stinky around and tries to hump her all of the time. Here they are in all their glory;
That evening we all went out to the Hellenic club - a weird complex that encompasses a bizarre amalgamation of business and pleasure. It's a members-only club (so Zoe had to sign us in as guests) with a bar (that's really cheap) and dance-floor with regular live music performances. There's also a 'pokie' (electronic gambling) machine area, a restaurant and office and conference spaces. Apparently there are a lot of 'comprehensive' clubs like this in Australia and they nearly always serves booze much cheaper than standard bars. It was a strange environment because there was an element of exclusivity; there was a dress-code (which we didn't really abide by) and the average age was probably around 35-40 - you could definitely sense the intent of keeping the 'riff-raff' out. But, the inexpensive alcohol, scruffy gambling addicts and at-best dated at-worst run-down interior suggested a blue-collar, average-Joe sort of clientèle. We hung out for a while taking full advantage of the $7 cocktails and voyeuring at the glamorous elderly couples jiving on the dance-floor.
We then head out to Cube club - a gay club with a neon night on in the CBD of Canberra. We managed only one drink before we grew tired of the bangy dance music, very young punters and expensive wrist-band policy. We tried out another bar for an hour but it became quickly clear that we'd all already had enough and so after stopping at a chicken-shop for a schnitzel burger and chips with chicken-salt, we went home. As much as we try we just can't seem to stomach a full night-out.
The following day we had a lovely lie in with a late breakfast before visiting a David Jones department store (much like a John Lewis) to buy a birthday present for a one year old whose party we were gate-crashing later on in the day. We then indulged in some extravagant milkshakes at a place called Pâtissez that had been lauded all over Facebook before arriving at little Aari's party. Now I don't know if this particular 1st birthday party was representative of Australian children's parties as a whole but boy did the family go all out. As we parked up we noticed a petting zoo packing up, a bouncy castle and a face-painting stand, and that was just outside. Inside the hall was a huge buffet with all sorts of foods ranging from mini-pasties to sushi. Everyone who attended (which must have been over 50 or more) was given a sweets bag (they call them lollies) and a raffle gift. There were balloons, beers and a basketball game to boot. It was impressive. And when we arrived the birthday boy was fast asleep.
Because of my limited clothing and footwear I had tried my best to 'dress-up' but ended up in a cow-print dress, a large woolly cardigan (it's cold in Canberra) orange socks and my multi-coloured fluorescent trainers. As I was making the most of the nibbles on offer, my lovely comrades starting pissing themselves laughing. Apparently I looked like a crazy bag-lady who'd wandered off the street into the party to eat the free food.
Later on Zoe drove us to an area of Canberra (that's still residential) where mobs of wild kangaroos hang out. It was amazing and weird to see the animals up-close in the middle of a metropolitan city. They were much more still and timid than I'd imagined and also smaller than I'd expected. It seems the reddy-orange, huge muscular roos aren't the most common and only really exist up north in Queensland.
We spent that evening playing the lively board game Articulate with Vanhie's family which was hilariously good fun. We drank some beers, ate some freshly made Laotian spring rolls as well as Vanhie's homemade cheese and laughed at our inability to describe things cross-culturally.
For our final day we went to Kingston old bus depot market where we of course sampled ALL of the tasters. It was a really nice market with lots of homemade crafts, clothes and food. There was also a really good band playing;
After getting a free feed by feigning interest in all of the food stalls we popped to a craft ale place called BentSpoke in an area called Braddon which is probably the nearest thing to a trendy / hipster zone that Canberra's gonna get to. Zoe treated us to the most delicious alcoholic ginger beer we've ever had. Refreshed and ready for a proper lunch we then walked around the corner to a street food square where we got a Broddogs hot dog each for lunch.
We drove up Mount Ainslie for an impressive panoramic view of the whole o Canberra. I remarked that it looked as well-planned and symmetrical as Washington DC when Ash then told me it was in fact based around DC's design. On the way down we had another mini-tour and saw some of the embassy's, offices and the Parliament House. We also saw the aboriginal 'tent-embassy' as it's known which is located on the lawn outside of Parliament House. It's a collection of tents and semi-permanent structures that represents the aboriginal community and has been there on and off for over thirty years but is not recognised as an official embassy.
For our last night in Australia's capital we ordered in from a noodle chain called Wokitup. Vanhie came round (and was savaged by Poppy) and we watched and critiqued The Voice Australia. I then played my first game of Yahtzee which surprisingly turned out quite successful despite my butterscotch liqueur intoxication.
Canberra itself is a nice city but there isn't an awful lot to it. We did however have lots of good old fashioned fun thanks to the company we kept and were really glad we made the trip to the most-mistaken capital city in the developed world. Even if it was fucking freezing.