Thursday, January 26, 2012

Perth - day 1

25 January 2012

Viv and I used to travel quite a bit before Xena came into our lives. However, once we became parents, all our travel plans understandably went for a toss, at least for the first few months of becoming parents. Also, due to her health complications, we were apprehensive about taking her out of the country until her doctors were absolutely sure that we could.

However, January 2012 would mark our 5th wedding anniversary, so we did long to go on a holiday to celebrate it. Viv gave me some 'safe' options, which would not disrupt Xena too much - Kranji Farmstay in Singapore, Malacca in Malaysia, or... any other place I wanted. I told him I was still apprehensive about taking Xena out of the country so my choice was Kranji Farmstay, a supposedly quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of the city, where you could see farms and have some nice and peaceful family time together. And then I googled it. Boy, was I glad I did! Everyone who had been there had complained about mosquitoes and the loud noises of the karaoke that happened every night in the hall outside and went on till midnight. So we crossed Kranji off the list. I had already been to Malacca so that was out too.

So now the challenge was to find the evasive 'any other place'. I did consider India, but it would be torture for baby Xena to travel to so many cities if we wanted to meet everyone. And if we didn't meet everyone then lord save us from the fury of the enraged relatives.

And then all of a sudden, Viv popped the question, "How about Perth?" I almost fell off my chair. "Perth as in AUSTRALIA-Perth????" I asked. He nodded. And here's why I, who was SO apprehensive about taking Xena out of the country, quickly agreed to Perth. Viv told me the flight was only about 5 hours long, and Xena's doctor had said okay to short flights. It was in the same time zone as Singapore so her daily routine wouldn't suffer any changes. We had always wanted to see Australia, and Perth was the closest city to Singapore. A short flight would also let us see if Xena took well to it, so that we could plan longer trips in the future, such as to the US to see my sister. So yes, Perth was perfect.

The only issue, of course, was that it would be summer in Australia. But then we had decided on a winter wedding date based on the northern hemisphere and hence, had no control over the fact that it would be summer in the southern hemisphere around our anniversary every year.

When it's just the two of you going on a holiday, preparations don't matter. You can pack the night before and it's still ok. All you need to make sure of is that you have your passport, visa and some money. Even if you forget anything, you can always just buy it there. BUT... If you're going with a baby, preparation is everything. You need to take everything your baby will need, especially if she needs a ton of stuff added to her milk. (She was on pumped breastmilk with fortifiers added to it.) So I spoke to a bunch of moms who had taken their babies overseas, and got some super useful tips. 

So armed with a nice 60-item list, we got down to some crazy shopping. We bought baby sunscreen, a fan for her stroller, a contraption to prevent her teethers and toys from falling down on the road or floor, and what not. I ordered a sun hat and sunglasses for her online. We packed all her medicines and thousands and thousands of diapers, and everything she would ever need on her first holiday overseas. Her stuff took up almost all of the big suitcase and Viv and I just about fitted our stuff in the gaps in between. 

Viv booked the flight and hotel, and I got busy researching the things to do in Perth, and planning a baby-friendly itinerary. We had some trouble trying to get the bassinet seat in the flight. My favorite Singapore Airlines (SQ) let me down very badly. We'd planned the dates based on the bassinet availability, and in the end, SQ changed our seats and didn't even tell us! Turns out we did not have the bassinet seat anymore. After Viv had had about 5847372527485974636 phone calls with them, we were still waitlisted for a bassinet seat. To make matters worse, the return flight was all full so Viv couldn't get the seat next to me. So he paid 50 USD to get the seat in the adjacent row, the one near the emergency exit. But we still didn't know if we had the bassinet seat or not for the first leg. At one point, Viv got so fed up with them he even suggested using his miles to upgrade all of us to business class! But upgrading all of us to business class for such a short flight seemed like an unnecessary waste of miles. We still kept that option open though. However, SQ finally called and told us that Xena had used her contacts and asked for a plane change so that she could get a bassinet. On a serious note, yes, they did indeed call to tell us that there was a plane change and now we did have a bassinet seat! Phew!

So on 25 Jan, we left home at about 10.30 pm, as our flight was at 1 am. It was not intentional but I read later that a night flight is the best when baby is flying for the first time. Thankfully, Xena slept through most of the flight, and willingly drank the milk we had carefully timed to coincide with take-off and landing so that the pressure change did not cause any pain in her ears. She was very comfortable through the flight and even sang for about 10 minutes in the immigration queue at Perth airport, much to the amusement of our fellow passengers.

Mommy and baby at Singapore's Changi airport

Her expression perfectly represents a baby's feelings about the first ever flight.

We reached Perth at 6 am on 26 January. When we stepped out of the airport, we could not believe our eyes. 6:30 am was like 11:30 am in Singapore! Yes, it was that bright and sunny! In fact, all brochures for Perth boasted of '3000 hours of sun a year', though I don't know how that's supposed to pull in tourists. 

We took the 2-way Perth Connect bus from the airport, which dropped us right at the doorstep of our very basic Ibis hotel. It was a 3-star hotel, but very very clean and the service was excellent. On our holidays, Viv and I are generally not particular about getting a fancy hotel as long as it's clean. After all, it's just a place to sleep and space to keep our luggage. We were going to be out most of the time anyway. I had stayed in the Ibis when I was in Hong Kong, and had expected the room to be quite small, like it was in Hong Kong. However, the Perth Ibis had considerably bigger rooms. 

We had not slept much (I caught maybe an hour's sleep in the flight, while Viv caught a movie) so we decided to catch up on sleep and then head out for brunch. The plan was to get up at about 11 am. We were all so tired that we only woke up at 1 pm, hungry as wolves!

Fresh from her nap

We were so scared of her rolling over and falling from the bed that we always surrounded her with pillows on all sides. She always reacted with an 'innocent jailbird' look. 

All set to go out and about!

We walked around and checked out the eating and shopping places nearby. We found a nice kebab place and had that for lunch. I was quite surprised to see so many kebab places in Perth. After lunch, we took a walk around the city centre, with Xena comfortably nestled in her stroller. She let us put on sunscreen on her but flung her sunglasses and hat away in less than a second. 

Generally, one would not like to start a holiday with shopping, but it really was too hot for us to go anywhere. It was best to stick to air-conditioned shops and malls. Now Viv and I are not great shoppers, but we still managed to pick up some stuff. Viv got a T-shirt with Aussie lingo, and I picked up a hat. It was still very very hot, so we cooled off over butterscotch ice-cream.

Xena was so tolerant and patient -- she didn't complain at all! Though we had a fan attached to her stroller, her cheeks were flushed red from the heat. Yet, she was very cheerful throughout. 

We came back to the hotel to let her rest and reboot in preparation for our evening out. 

In the evening, the plan was to go to King's Park and Botanical Garden (listed as the number 1 attraction in almost all of the must-see lists I saw on the net), and then have dinner by Swan River. However, by the time we walked (a very steep uphill walk may I add; thank goodness for strollers!) to King's Park, we realised that there was going to be a fireworks show because of Australia Day, so we decided to cancel the Swan River plans and watch the 8 pm fireworks. 

Walking to King's Park

We sat on the grass and waited along with thousands of people. 

Xena and I chilling on the very green grass

All of a sudden, it started raining! Gaaaahhh! We didn't have an umbrella and Xena's stroller was not exactly 100% waterproof. We dashed to get shelter and luckily we found a covered area. 

Can you spot the rain in the distance? 

The other folks had come prepared for picnics (and rain!) but we didn't have any food or water on us. Luckily, Viv found a drinks stall and I found an ice-cream cart and we managed to stay hydrated. 

I had taken along enough milk for Xena and she was comfortable and happy. 

Soon, it stopped raining but there were bouts of crazy lightning every now and then, making the people go "Whoa!" I spoke to two of the security folks there to ask if the show was going to get cancelled because of the lightning, and they said they were actually hoping that the lightning would add some 'extra effects' to the show! Wahahaha!

Finally, the skies cleared up (somewhat) and the show started. 

What a spectacular show! There were planes doing somersaults in the sky, and fireworks that burst into the shape of birds. Amazing stuff. 

Planes doing crazy stuff in the sky

Check out how crowded it was!

We couldn't get a good shot of the fireworks...

...so we decided to take a video instead. 

At first, I was very amused at the thought of an admin building for lost kids, and then I realised they were two different things that just happened to be in the same direction. 

The show ended at 8:30 pm and we made our way back to get dinner. The walk was quite a scary experience. We ran into some drunk hooligans on the way. A few of them started following us, yelling something and I caught the words, "Why you pushing the pram??" If they were not drunk and scary, I would have turned around and said, "Because the baby cannot walk by herself yet, you dhakkan." Anyway, we just kept walking along quietly, and after a while, they stopped following us. I was amazed that they wouldn't even spare a family with a baby. My guess is that they were really drunk and just wanted a reaction from anyone at all, so that they could pick a fight or something. 

We walked and walked and walked and then realised that most dinner places had closed! The ones that were open didn't seem to have anything vegetarian for Viv. So we went to a convenience store and got some drinks, and decided to go back to the hotel and order room service. And guess what? The hotel's kitchen closed at 9:30 pm. We had called them at 9:40 pm. Sheesh. So Viv went out and travelled far to find some place, any place that had some food, and returned with... kebabs! We had a good laugh. Kebabs for lunch and kebabs for dinner. Great. We decided that that was the end of kebabs for us, and we were not going to have any more of them. Ever!

We gave Xena a shower before calling it a day. Day 1 of Holiday 1 had been quite eventful for our happy little bunny!

Click here for Perth - day 2 (Fremantle Market, Lake Monger and Sunset Coast)



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