By Jerome Quinto Contributor On board the PR 211 cabin, I was seated face-to-face with an LCD screen, which lacks the brilliance and clarity of one. At first glance, I knew that the screen won't produce a stunning picture. The images flashed were smudge with pinkish light stains and were high in brightness and contrast. In short, it was not worth viewing at all. I didn't really enjoy the in-flight video and information clips. Thus I just indulged myself with the classical music piped through the complimentary headsets (which are not complimentary at all in the Pinoy sense since you can't take it home). The music was apt to the scholarly text that I had to read to catch-up with the lectures that my professor would give while I'm away. The piano, winds and strings ensemble saved me from the lack of activity over the long flight to Australia. Here's a photo of fellow Filipino pilgrims from the diocese of Malolos on-queue to check-in their luggage. Abobe is a photo of Father Ron with a youth minister of Malolos. Along with the music came three sets of meals. Early lunch and heavy afternoon snacks were served during the first leg of the journey (before the 45-minute stopover at Sydney airport) and a light snack upon arriving in Melbourne Airport. The meals were enough to satisfy my gastronomic need. Here you can see our packed in-flight lunch. During the flight, I cannot forget the recurring reminder from the Australian authorities that was being flashed on screen and announced through the public address system: It said, “Declare or Beware,” and went on to explain that the Australian government does not want in-bound passengers to suffer the penalties related quarantine and customs law. If you plan to travel to Australia, make sure that you visit the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. Here's a snapshot of the queue in Sydney airport transfer. It was a long flight but the hassles of the journey have been swept away by the gentle breeze that greeted me as I entered the Melbourne Airport. I believe you experience such feeling when step on a foreign land for the first time. Read my earlier entry here.
Recently in Australia Category
By Jerome Quinto, Contributor INQUIRER.net I'VE always thought that a trip to Australia is as easy as climbing down a flight of staircases. Well, if a million steps down a thousand-storey building is for you a snap, the former rings true -- for you. For a Filipino (with the Pinoy passport, of course), going to Australia, or any developed country for that matter, starts with getting a visa. Well this wasn't a problem for me, though preparing the papers needed to get the visa is a hassle. Not to mention the agony of the waiting period where I'm caught between being prepared for the trip and likewise uncertain for I don't know whether I'm getting a visa or not. Good thing the dilemma wasn't that long. Just about three weeks (compared to a month or more for most). I don't intend to plot in detail the pre-departure process. Suffice it to say that IT IS NOT EASY and one should consider so many factors before one's flight. So how did I get "Down Under"? At the airport My journey to Australia isn't my first international flight (been to HK last July 2006 for the Asian Youth Day). Thus, our NAIA is no foreign ground for me. Security checks, X-rays, checking-in of luggage, terminal fee and immigration -- the long procedure one has to undergo in NAIA. Compared to my previous international flight, there was an added security check at the waiting area near the gate where we are supposed to board. My hand-carried pack was again subjected to the X-ray and manual inspection. The added inspection tried to ensure that we didn't carry anything illegal under Aussie regulations. Aboard the plane Our ticket was marked Fiesta Class (a.k.a. economy class). I was expecting a different kind of cabin service since it's a longer flight. I was thinking about what food they were going to serve, what kind of entertainment would be available during the eight-hour journey, what amenities would be offered to us. These questions just kept popping in my mind. (To be continued)
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net IT was simply the hugest beach I have ever seen in my entire life. Boracay Beach isn't even half the size of the beachfront at Surfer's Paradise, the most popular stop in Gold Coast. This is how it looks like once you step into the beach at Surfer's Paradise. Notice how long the stretch of sand is before it breaks into the sea. The waves are simply astounding -- no wonder they call it Surfer's Paradise. I can spend an entire day just listening to the crashing waves. After much prodding, I had to take a dip. Lunita, a fellow journalist from Singapore and an avid surfer, said it's a must that anyone who visits the Coast should at least "be one" with the ocean by dipping one's feet in the water. Our plan was to get in the ocean but we got there late and it was a bloody cold spring night, and the strong waves made me think otherwise. The waves are so strong you need to be a strong swimmer or else the undertow might throw you back into the sea. For a while, I thought about Gold Coast as some sort of beach commune where after getting off from the bus, you can already jump into the sand and see surfers in action (and maybe ogle at girls in bikinis but like I said, it was already past 8 p.m. when we got there). Dead wrong. It was like this one big collection of hotels and skyscrapers by the beach. This is how the skyline looks like from the beach -- and that's just a small portion because it stretches along the coast. How we got there -- and why we missed the sunset -- is quite a story. Once the conference was over, there were three of us who decided on giving Gold Coast a go. The others wanted to see the kangaroo and koala sanctuary. No offense to them animals, but the idea sounded boring at that time. There's always Animal Planet, right? Brisbane Central Station to Gold Coast is about an hour and 15 minutes by train. But half an hour later, they cut the trip short because of an accident. So we got off along with this throng of people and from some station, we were herded into a bus to get to another train station. Finally after waiting for more than an hour, in the biting cold, a train finally arrived that would take us to Gold Coast. This is Lunita and Malovika (a journalist from India) on the train, still looking psyched to hit the beach despite the delay -- thus, missing the Gold Coast sunset. To get there, go down in Nerang station (fare from Central is around 10 Aussie dollars) and from there, a bus takes people straight to Surfer’s Paradise. We finally arrived around 8 p.m., just enough time for a quick McDonald’s dinner and a stroll on the beach. Less ideal without the sunset, we managed to take pictures anyway. The last train back to Brisbane is around 11 p.m., so that gave us about an hour to spend on Surfer's Paradise. Gold Coast makes for an excellent day trip -- catch the earliest train from Brisbane and then come back at night, ideally after getting yourself hammered with a few drinks on the beach. Surfer's Paradise is teeming with restaurants, bars and for aspiring surfers, almost every surf brand you know from Quiksilver to Billabong. Lunita even came back the next day to buy a second-hand surfboard. From how it looked, there are simply so many things to check out in Surfer's Paradise alone. One hour and some at Gold Coast was more than enough to convince me that this is one awesome place worthy of succeeding visits. �
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net WHAT'S the difference between alligators and crocodiles? Apparently not so much says this guy at Hartley's Creek Crocodile Farm in Cairns. The video below shows him feeding these nasty-looking crocs while telling us guests a thing or two about these reptiles. To answer my question, he says alligators have squarish mouths unlike these crocs in the picture that have pointed snouts. There are also fewer species of gators and they are likewise found in only a few countries. Whatever, these crocs still look nasty to me. Just hear them munch on the meat thrown at them. The fearsome sound is caused by the enormous pressure their mouths generate. Now that's what I call a bite. But seriously, when coming face-to-face with a croc, it pays to run fast -- in a straight line away from it and not zigzag, as myth would have it. Crocs are slow, lazy creatures and know when to give up the chase. They're so lazy they don't even blink their eyes that often. How about this? Crocs can suck their eyeballs into their skulls. They let us hold this 18-month old baby croc. Its mouth was tied, of course, even crocs this young already have sharp teeth. Cold-blooded to the touch but not as slimy and scaly like I expected it to be. I found out that they do serve crocodile meat as well. Our host, though, dared not serve us croc meat for dinner. Touching these creatures was more than enough experience for me.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net ON A TRIP to Cairns over the weekend, Systimax treated us journalists to a trip to the Great Barrier Reef. To an avid scuba diver, this sure sounds like heaven. I'm not a certified diver, but once we were told we could do some snorkeling… man, this is the Great Barrier Reef! To get close to the reef, we hopped on a boat from that would take us to Green Island. You could tell from the above picture it was early morning, people sipping coffee to go with some excellent hot muffins. Two hours on a boat sounds like fun, but not totally for seasick chumps like me. Green Island itself is a commercial resort. Now I know why there were flights from Osaka straight to Cairns: Japanese are to Australia as Koreans are to the Philippines. At the information counter, there's even a Japanese fellow to entertain tourists. The beach at Green Island isn't bad at all. Mary, a journalist from Sydney (and at the age of 60, an avid triathlete) warned, though, that Queensland could be hotter than most tropical countries like the Philippines. After taking this shot, I took off for snorkeling in the middle of the Coral Sea. The Great Barrier Reef contains the most number of marine species per square meter. For those who don't feel like getting wet, the glass-bottom boat is the next best thing to snorkeling. It's like being in 360-degree aquarium. Remember Dory from "Finding Nemo"? I can't recall what kind of fish she is, though. Anyway, fish are best seen moving so here’s a video I took during the tour.