Perth: An elegant blend of old and new

When I expressed my desire to visit Perth, my friends wondered as to why I was going there, since most tourists who visit Australia visit its Eastern parts such as Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Brisbane.

I wanted to visit Perth mostly because of cricket. Dennis Lillee, one of the fastest bowlers ever, was born near Perth. The pitch at WACA Stadium in Perth, regarded as one of the bounciest in the world, has been the nightmare for many a cricketer. Watching cricket matches on TV, I was often amused to see birds on the outfield of the cricket ground at Perth.

Compared to other Australian cities, Perth is quite small. Founded in 1829 as the Centre of Swan river settlement, (it is in Perth that river Swan meets the Indian Ocean) Perth became famous in the 19th Century as people rushed there in search of gold. After the World War, when mining peaked in Western Australia, Perth became its capital, hosting the Parliament and Supreme Court.

On arrival at Perth airport, a Punjabi taxi driver drove us from the airport to our hotel. He lamented that Perth, which was once very prosperous, had now fallen on bad days because of decline in mining. He said that Perth was now a hub of education, being home to four universities.

We started our city tour the next day with the visit to, what else, WACA Stadium. Compared to Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, the WACA is quite small, with a capacity of only 20,000. Built in 1890, the first cricket match was played on this ground in 1899. It was in WACA that Dennis Lillee clashed with Javed Miandad and Afridi was suspended for ball tampering.

A Cricket Museum, which has artefacts related to Australian cricket as well as history of cricket, is part of the stadium.

After visiting the stadium, we went to the Hyde Park. Similar to the Hyde Park in London, this park is very big with lakes, walking tracks, play grounds, BBQ etc. The park is very popular for weddings.

Later, we walked on the banks of the Swan river and reached Elizabeth Quay, located close to Perth Railway Station. From Elizabeth Quay, boat rides are available for South Perth. Cruises also start from this place. There are a number of attractions and restaurants (including an Indian one) in this area. The major attraction of Quay is the Bell Tower.

This tower is architecturally very attractive and contains bells given by the British government to Perth in 1888. One can go up the tower by paying a steep fee and chime the bells. Spectacular views of the city of Perth are available from the top.

Close to the Bell Tower is another magnificent park called Kings Park and Botanical Gardens. Located on a hillock on the western side of Swan River, this huge park has a botanical garden with 2000 plant species found only in Western Australia. The park has a 620 metre walkway passing through eucalyptus trees. A glass and steel bridge are part of the walkway.

The main road leading to the park, which is very popular with picnickers, has two war memorials: one of them, located at the edge of the park, affords spectacular view of Perth.

After visiting the park, it was time for rest. I decided to take a bus to return to my hotel. When I went to buy the tickets, the driver told me that bus facility within and around the CBD was free. I thought that this may be to curtail too many private vehicles in the CBD.

The next morning, we went to see the most famous beach in Perth, Cottesloe Beach. We took a train, got down at Cottesloe train station, and walked one kilometre to reach the beach. This is one of the most popular and most beautiful beaches in Perth. It was noon by the time we returned to the CBD. We had our lunch at a pure vegetarian Indian restaurant and went to explore the CBD.

We saw the Supreme Court and the Parliament House buildings located on the same street. Located nearby is St. Mary Cathedral. Built in 1865, this is the first Roman Catholic Church of the city and has been renovated a number of times, the latest being in 2009.

A number of tourists go to Fremantle, which is very close to Perth. But due to lack of time, we could not go there. Perth also has a lovely zoo. We were told that an island located near Perth attracted penguins.

A blend of old and new, Perth is quite laid back. It is less crowded and has a serene atmosphere. It is definitely an enjoyable city.

Dr DV Guruprasad

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