Wednesday, April 21, 2010



• By Rupali Dean

Although it is a city, Perth retains some of its small town feel. There are relatively few high rise buildings and the city is spread over a large area. The harbour, teeming with sailboats, is particularly beautiful. My first stop was at the mint, which has an amazing exhibit of coins, gold bars and nuggets. There are some displays about mining, including a reconstruction of a miner’s camp, and I could also see the current minting operations through some windows. The tour concentrated on the mining camp exhibit and explained some of the nuggets they have. Highlight however was the gold pour, which is done hourly and you can see it more than once if you like. They melt down a bar and pour it into the mold. It's impressive to see the molten metal glowing because it’s so hot.

I also calculated my worth in gold, but will not tell you how much or you’ll know my weight, (as the heavier you are, the more your worth). After lunch at a nearby café, we wandered down to the Swan River which runs along the South of Perth and provides a picturesque stroll along its banks taking in the clear blue skies, sunshine. On the edge of the Swan River and dominating Perth’s waterfront are the Swan Bells which include the twelve royal bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields originating in London's Trafalgar Square, donated to Perth in 1988 to mark Australia's Bi-centenary. The Bell's are constructed within a stunning modern piece of architecture claiming to be the world’s biggest musical instrument.

Next morning, reached the neighboring and very scenic Fremantle on a cruise. Here we visited the Maritime museum, which is rather new and impressive, built over-top an old submarine base that was one of the busiest, after Pearl Harbor, during World War II. The centerpiece of which is Australia II, the boat that beat the yanks in the America's Cup in 1984. Next was a lazy lunch of “Fish and chips” at Cicerello’s by the harbour. I was about to feed some visiting Sea-gulls when the waitress pointed me to a sign which read, “Do not feed the gulls or they will S.O.Y” (shit on you)…saved on time, wasn’t I? On offer were also boutique styled beers, the ones that pop with flavour whether it is chocolaty, coffee flavored dark beers or zesty refreshing wheat beers. The crown jewel probably was the Little Creature Brewery right smack bang on the harbour where we went to later in the evening and I’d say even if beer is not your thing, then at least go for the super funky setting. The actual brewery doubles as a bohemian styled drinking warehouse and eatery. It’s very cool and is right on the coast. After a lazy lunch like a true Indian I spent a lot of time at the market which was quite interesting...fruit stalls, giftware and restaurants in a typical market setting except, and I was rather impressed that nobody was yelling, no aggressive selling tactics to get your was all rather calm and orderly. One of the best activities was our night time visit to the Fremantle Prison, which up until 1991 had been a working prison being established as a convict prison for all of the British rogues in 1859. We took a torchlight tour around the prison and disconcertingly it still had very much the feel of a prison rather than a museum which was not helped by all of the ghastly surprises along the way. They showed us various cells in the conditions they would have been in throughout the years. It was surprising to hear that they only had a bucket in the cell for a toilet right up to the late 80’s. The facility was also quite cruel by modern standards, but they only shut the prison down in 1991, which amazed me, because the cells were 2m x 2m.

We were also shown the gallows where about 40 something and at least one woman had been hanged. We came back to the prison the following morning for a tunnel tour as there is a network of underground tunnels used for supplying fresh water to the prison and surrounding area. Donning all of our protective clothing, we plunged down into the darkness, the labyrinth of tunnels was unending some of which we crawled through while others we navigated in little canoes. Next on my agenda was a visit to the beautiful Kings Park as well as a ride on the newly finished Perth Wheel. Sadly it was my penultimate day in Western Australia and after an amazing holiday down under, I had to embark on an exhausting eleven hour flight back home to be welcomed by tons of toil, work and yes the beginning of a tyrannical Indian summer.

Published in Asian Age