I should probably start from when I reentered Australia.
I came in through Western Australia, stopping in Perth for a few days. It so happens that stopping over in Perth from Southeast Asia before heading back to Brisbane saved me hundreds of dollars, and I have a friend in the area I was keen on visiting. Also, I had the rare opportunity to see one of my absolute favorite animals in the world, wild! It was a pretty good deal.
My friend met me at the airport. Upon seeing me at the gate, she handed me a sweater. After putting it on, she got me into her car so I could drop my heavy bags off at her house before adventuring around the area.
The weather in Perth compared to Phnom Penh was shockingly cold (I was shivering a bit). All of my heat rashes (I had quite a few on my limbs)from living in boiling Cambodia started to heal immediately after landing. I felt ill-equipped to deal with weather, though, as I had packed only tank tops and light shirts that breathe well while sweating. I was cold.
The culture shock from SE Asia to Australia was subtle and easy. The cleanliness of the streets surprised me for a while, as I was now used to streets lined with dust and dirt and litter and other curious objects (eg, half sets of sandals). I had learned how to listen for oncoming traffic so that I could leap out of their way and avoid injury. Here, the streets had grass and trees to divide the pedestrians from the cars, and the only trash you see is safely contained in bins, ready for pick-up. Here, everything looks so shiny and polished compared to what I had gotten used to.
The other surprise I had was the lack of people on the streets. There were so many streets, but I wondered where all of the people were. In SE Asia, it was a rare moment to be alone and free of other people. Now, the place seemed empty while we drove.
And we drove around a lot. For those who don't know, I am easily carsick and don't personally enjoy being in cars for long periods of time. This has been the case in Brisbane all year, where everything is accessible by riding in buses through long stretches of suburbia. Perth seemed to be formatted like Brisbane, with lots of roads and highways to drive. Aside from the discomfort of long drives, driving around did help me get to see the area quickly; given I only had a few days to see everything, I was glad to see the country gliding by my window.
We explored Freemantle a bit. Freemantle is kind of like a cute, quiet area of Perth that grew legs and walked down the shore a few miles. It is an adorable area with cute shops and pleasant cafes down small streets. It also used to be where a big prison was located, which is now a museum and performance space. We didn't get to go to the prison because of my limited time, but we visited the harbor area with a few older stone buildings we could walk around before eating fish & chips for lunch at an open-air harbor joint called Kaili's. Oh yeah, I was also having culture shock (and still am) to the high prices of Australia. This place is not cheap!
The second day in Perth was the piece de resistance of my trip. We woke up early, got to the port, and hopped onto a ferry to Rottnest Island. This, my friends, is where the adorable, angelic, absolutely amazing QUOKKAS LIVE!!!!
To say I was beside myself with excitement would probably not do justice the giddiness I had all day. I mean, I have been loving quokkas from afar for years! Finally, I got to go to quokka paradise and pet them! I got to potentially love them and rally the quokkas to happiness and freedom, with me, forever!
Well, I didn't expect the quokkas to be little sugar junkies, though. There are bakeries and sandwich/candy shops dotted near the harbor, and the little quokkas by the shops have grown accustomed to tourists dropping tasty things on the ground for them to try. The quokkas near the shops rummaged around for little morsels of chocolate or sugar or other highly-addictive substances that could cause major damage to the health of these succulent-eating marsupials. It was heartbreaking to be turned down by quokkas while holding a succulent leaf in exchange for someone nearby who had sugar-coated hands and a piece of banana (other tourists were idiots and kept feeding quokkas things that are not good for them). One local guy came over and told me that some of these quokkas by the shops have been losing chunks of fur as a result of eating sugary sweets instead of succulents. I was devastated to hear this. Later on, I saw a little quokka huddled in the corner of a shop's alley with Snickers wrapper in its delicate little paws. I shouted and ran over to grab the wrapper from the poor little fluffball, and it gave me a confused and sad look as I threw away the wrapper saying in near-tears, "No, quokka, no!"
Outside of the shop area, the beaches on the island were gorgeous and wild, and less-addicted quokkas came over and investigated our squee-ing selves for a little while. We tried our best to master the quintessential quokka selfie without intimidating the meek little things. They were sweet and gentle, and I was in love so much I barely could get myself to leave them. We also went for a quokka tour to learn more about their lifestyles and stumbled across a heavily-quokka-ed area where we oggled and awwwed for a while, trying to lure them to love us (I wasn't alone in this endeavor!). It was a heavenly day, and I could not have felt more accomplished in life.
We also enjoyed some snacks and toured the island on a bus, finishing our adventures with lunch at the port - I got myself an unprecedented amount of chili mussels for consumption.
I got another surprise during my short visit to Perth - I had found out that an old friend from NYU I hadn't seen in a decade lived in the area! We ended up meeting in Freemantle and enjoyed drinks and dinner with each other as we caught up on life over a few hours. I was so pleased to hear how she's doing and what has changed for both of us since last time we met. Reconnecting with old friends might be one of my favorite things in life.
On my last day, we visited the CBD of Perth. The buildings in Perth are big and loom over the streets in silence, but the city overall is a pretty small and compact place. Most of the places we wanted to visit (like museums) were unfortunately closed for the day, but we wandered a bit and I took in the quietness of the small city before getting on another plane to get back to Brisbane.