AUSTRALIA DAY 1 – BRISBANE

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After a 15 hour flight, we landed in Brisbane at 8:15 a.m. I slept surprisingly well on the plane so I was feeling pretty energized for the day ahead! After we got our luggage, we purchased a sim card and took Uber to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Urban Brisbane for 2 nights and we were lucky they had a room for us right away. The hotel has a restaurant and a swimming pool but we did not have time to visit either. The hotel service and our room were great during our stay. No complaint at all!

After we dropped off our stuff, we Ubered to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where I had already purchased the tickets online as they were cheaper. We grabbed a light lunch at their café and it was really neat how they even had their logo on the sandwich boxes, coffee cups and cupcakes!

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Once you have been to a few zoo or sanctuaries in Australia, they all start to look the same as they usually carry the same type of animals (i.e. Emu, wombat, koala, kangaroos and cockatoos). However, Lone Pine by far has the most number of koalas so if you love koalas, you have to come here! Also, only in the state of Queensland, are you allowed to hold a koala so don’t miss out on the opportunity.

Also, come early in the morning as the koala-hold queue can get pretty long and only runs until early afternoon. For $30, you get a large photo, a calendar and some postcards which is a good deal. However, the quality of printing of the postcards are horrible as they get scratched so easily! I like how the koalas take different shifts so the poor animals are not so overwhelmed. I was so afraid at first when the zookeeper put the koala on me as the koala has such sharp claws and it was so close to my face! However, the animal was super friendly and the picture turned out awesome!

From the Koala Sanctuary we headed to CBD Brisbane to grab a quick lunch before our free guided tour at 2:30 p.m. We ate at a nearby pizzeria called Julius Pizzeria which was recommended by the librarian we spoke with. The restaurant was quite busy even though it was well past lunch time. We ordered Calamari fritti con rucola (fried calamari), linguine al Granchio (blue swimmer crab with chilli and garlic) and  Gamberi Piccanti (pizza with tiger prawns, rocket leaves and cheese). The last two dishes were very spicy for my palette so I only had a small proportion of it. My favourite of the three dishes was the linguine as it was the most flavourful, the other two dishes were relatively bland. They didn’t give us any dipping sauce for the calamari! The proportions of tiger prawns on the pizza was generous.

After lunch we met up with Bill, our tour guide. This is a free walking tour offered by the Brisbane Greeters. Simply fill out a form online and tell them what you would like to see around the city and they will pair you up with a knowledgeable tour guide.  Bill was originally from New York but he has lived in Brisbane for over 20 years. We told him we were open to seeing anything so he took us on a 2.5 hour tour starting at the State Library of Victoria. We walked through the art district in South Bank, crossed the bridge into CBD, checked out the Treasury Brisbane (casino), Queens Plaza (shopping area), Brisbane Arcade, Brisbane City Hall, St. Stephen Brisbane and concluded at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

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I think Brisbane has one of the most beautiful government building I have ever seen!  Bill told us that there is this anonymous artist who paints blue animals across the CBD city walls and no one knows who is it and when he does it! He also showed us a model which illustrates the upcoming developments in the Brisbane CBD in the next 10 years. From the model, you can expect that Brisbane will look quite different as it will become more commercialized to cater to the growing international population There are many international students studying here and you can see most of them gathering in this one block in CBD where you can find all sorts of Asian cuisine.

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After we said our farewells with Bill, we did some souvenir shopping back in Queens Plaza and settled at Jimmy’s On the Mall for dinner. Jimmy’s On the Mall is Brisbane’s longest established outdoor restaurant and has been opened for 36 years. They recently renovated four years ago and the place looks amazing! We grabbed a seat on the upper floor where we can view the Queen Street Mall from a different angle and catch a nice breeze after a long day out in the sun. The restaurant serves a fusion of Western-Asian dishes and menu options were decent. It was 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and the restaurant was still quite busy. We ordered at the bar and patiently waited for our Fish and Chips, Crispy Skin Chicken and Snapper & Tiger Prawn Spring Rolls. The quality of food was alright and surprisingly the Crispy Skin Chicken was the best as I thought it might turn out pretty dry.

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After dinner, we grabbed some bottled water by the nearby 7-11 and headed back to our hotel which was only a 5-minute drive from CBD. It would have been only a 15 min walk but since it was up a steep slope and we walked a lot today, we decided to be lazy instead!

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