Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 7)

I woke up in the morning, and was met with a freezing temperature. It was in early August and in the middle of winter in southern hemisphere. Being used to live in hot tropical climate, I found the coldness rather overwhelming. It takes time to adjust, so I wore some thick clothing that cover every parts of my body except my hand and head. Since I couldn’t figure out the function of the heather given by my host last night, I left the room in freezing temperature (had I knew, I would have had comfortable night sleep).

I left my bedroom, and went into the front porch. Danny* is already there and enjoying the morning scenery. I’m truly surprised by how minimum his clothing is. He only wore T-shirt and track pants. I asked if he doesn’t feel cold, he said he is fine with that because he has already adjusted with Australian climate, since he have lived in Australia for more than a year. I can’t recall what our discussion topic in the porch, but I think it was about the area orientation.

Shiraj was out driving his taxi, while Feroza and her children were all sleep. I felt hungry, and want to have some breakfast. Danny* helped me out on how to use the kitchen, including the microwave. Turning on the stove was also tricky, and quite dangerous, as we must use cigarette lighter to lit the fire due to malfunctioning ignition spark.

He said that all foods are provided free by the host because it is already included in the lodging fee that we paid every month. I looked at the food in the kitchen; they’re largely South Asian cuisine, such as chicken curry and also a meal that resemble yellow porridge which I later found out to be a pot of dhal. Although I’m unfamiliar with them, I decided to eat whatever available. They’re not really delicious for me at that time, but still palatable.

A pot of dhal lentil porridge.

Danny* also showed me that we can actually cook some Indomie Mie Goreng instant noodle. The host normally provide a box of Indomie every month, and I can even buy them in any Asian grocery shop too. Well cooking some Indomie is very familiar to me, so it should be a good way to fill up my stomach before adjusting to the food in here. But when I opened its package, I was truly surprised to find its cooking oil is solid in its plastic sachet. In Indonesia it would normally be in liquid state with dark yellow color. But due to freezing temperature, it becomes like margarine. So I decided to dip it in hot water, before pouring them on the plate.

I also cook some burger patty, which uniquely need no oil to cook because its fat will melt and act as the cooking oil. And there is also a block of “Bega” cheese which seems to be different than Kraft cheese that I normally eat back home in Indonesia. This cheese taste less salty, yet the texture are stiffer. I decided to cook it with an omelet, and it became gooey like mozzarella cheese.

A slab of Bega Mild cheese.

While I enjoyed breakfast, Feroza and her children woke up. It was the first time I met the kids. Although they were initially shy, they later grew accustomed with me. They were such cute kids.

After I finished my breakfast, my father and my sister arrived at my home. They were greeted by Feroza and the little kids. My sister asked if I got a good sleep, which I replied yes. She said that we are going to travel around the city and Fremantle with Doddy. But first we must go to city center to catch up with him.

Like the usual habit back home, in my tropical Indonesia, I would normally take a shower in the morning before doing any activities. But the freezing weather initially deterred me to have shower. Feroza helped me out by showing me how to use hot water. I’m totally amazed that hot water is instantly available from the tap, even in the kitchen too. This is stark contrast to what I have back home where I have to boil the water if I want to have hot water shower.

While I took shower, Shiraj returns back from his night working shift. He was met by my father and my sister. Danny* and Erick* happened to be there, and also joined the conversation. They had long chat while I had shower and dressing up.

After just one night of meeting me, Shiraj remarked that my English is quite good. That is despite the fact I’m a newcomer who only performed moderately on my previous English language classes back home. Shiraj said that it is still much better when compared to one Japanese student tenant in the past. He said that his English language ability was almost non-existent. So bad that during his first few days, he had to resort to hand sign language just to make simple communication with Shiraj and his family!

After I dressed up and grabbing my camera bag, we bid farewell to Shiraj and start our journey exploring the city. Dani* joined us as he is also heading to his workplace. He also helps us showing how to use the public transport in Perth, namely the bus.

We walked down to Fitzgerald Street to the west of the house, and just a few meters from the junction, there is a small roofed bus stop.

Fitzgerald Street bust stop as seen in 2014. The Grosvenor road intersection can be seen on the right in the distance. Back then, the halt structure had different design.

We will hail the bus to the city from here. Dani* said that in here we can only catch the bus from designated stops. If we try to hail the bus from outside the place, the bus would still kept going and only stop at the nearest stopping point. There are several types of bus stops. The biggest one feature roof, and also schedule board, while the smallest is just a small metal orange post with Transperth logo and small “Hail bus” sign.

A typical Transperth bus stop. Sometime a bus stop only consist of small orange post like what is visible to the right.

Transperth is Public Transportation Company in Perth. Its service consist of all types of mass transportation vehicles in the city, such as bus, trains, and even ferry boat! Its network of service is very comprehensive when compared to public transport in Surabaya (even to this day!) It virtually covers nearly every corner of Perth metropolitan area, ranging from the city center all the way into the suburban housing area. If you live near bus stop or railway station, it is easy to go to anywhere.

An articulated bus, which was amazing for first timer like me. Note the old Transperth logo, which was how it looked like when I was in Australia in 1997.

But their schedule’s intensity varies. During peak hours, buses and trains will run at frequent intervals. But on weekend they run at reduced frequency, some bus services don’t even run at all!

Dani* signaled us that our bus is arriving. I can see that the bus appear from behind the hill to the north and descending into our bus stop. Dani* hail the bus, and the driver stopped the bus and opened its front door.

Back in 1997, typical Transperth buses had similar appearance as this bus. Except that the Transperth logo was different.

When we entered the bus, Dani* showed us on how to pay the bus service. If we pay by cash, we just tell the driver where our destination is, and the driver will explain the fare. We then have to pay it, and the driver will issue the ticket, and give the change if necessary.  This ticket can also be used to travel on train and Transperth’s ship. During busy period, we definitely need to do that quickly, in order to not to stall passengers behind us.

There is another method of paying the bus or transport fee. That is by using “Multirider” card. This card is a piece of thick paper with a magnetic stripe on its back. It can be used for multiple times, ranging from 10 until 40 times (depending on the type of the card that we buy). Using the card is quite simple. All you need to do is just inserting your card to validation machine, just behind the driver. Once it printed date on the card, then you are eligible to ride the bus. On the railway station, you do similar process on the validation machine which is placed on the platform, before boarding the train. If you get caught riding bus or trains (on the latter, police would conduct random onboard ticket checking) without your Multirider validated, you will be fined.

Multirider Card, front view.

Multirider, rear view.

In 1997 Transperth ticket fare divided by 4 zones, the further you go, the more zones that you need to travel through. And, of course, the more money you need to pay for your ticket. So generally tickets (especially Mutirider) have zone written on it, for example C1 for one zone for concession holder, C2 for two zones concession, and etc. The ticket validity last for 2 hours since it was issued (or since your Multirider printed), except if your ticket is “All Day”. If your trip exceeding the zone or time of your ticket you’re either asked to pay additional fee by the driver, or evicted from the bus. If it happens on train, you will be fined by transit police.

Transperth ticketing zones, as seen in 2012. Back in 1997, it only consist of 4 zones.

Although back in 1997, random ticket checking on train was amazingly rare, and trains were favorite transportation method for fare evaders back then.

Students, pensioner, and certain group of society are eligible to purchase “Concession” ticket, which is sold at reduced price. The price was, if I’m not mistaken, about 20% cheaper than regular price. This is quite a handy way to save money. And this is also applicable for foreign students. At the back of student card, there is a Transperth concession sticker which must be shown when purchasing ticket at the bus, on ticket office, or when there is a ticket checking onboard the train. But if you get caught purchasing concession ticket, and fail to show this sticker (normally happened when traveling by train), you will be fined.

Transpert Student Concession sticker at the back of my student card.

I also notice that the bus driver seem to have one unexplained and somewhat supernatural ability to identify the type of Multirider that a passenger insert into validation machine, despite the fact that the device is located slightly to the back of the driver’s seat, and identifying Multirider ticket can be tricky during rush hours, not to mention if the bus driver is busy serving the passenger who paid in cash. The driver will always know the type of your ticket zone, and wouldn’t hesitate force them pay additional fee or even evicting passengers if they exceed the zone of their ticket. Once I saw a driver stopping the bus and asked some passengers (who exceeded their ticket zone fare) to disembark the bus. In one extreme case that I heard from my friend, one bus driver made a sudden screeching halt just to kick one offending passenger.

In addition to those zoned tickets, there is also an “All Day” ticket which allows you to travel to all zones and all type of Transperth public transport vehicles, in a single fare. With this ticket you can go to anywhere in Transperth network without worrying about exceeding your ticket zone. And you can just go in and out from bus to train as many as you like just for one day! The ticket is valid for whole day (except during peak hour on working days) until midnight. At that time, the fare was A$ 2,50 for concession holder.

There is another Transperth bus system which is unbelievable for me, because it is free! Yup, you heard that right: you don’t need to pay anything just to ride it. Just hop onboard and you can ride it as much as you like. They called it CAT or City Area Transport. Their buses have silver color, with low floor, and their length was around ¾ of normal buses. Their routes consist of 2 lines: red and blue lines.

CAT Red Line bus.

As its name suggest, it only travel around city center, and connecting several important places around there. I later learned that if I travel with normal city buses, or even trains, between places in city center, it is actually free of charge! For train, if you travel between Perth and City West or Claisbrook, it was free.

Above all, being a student, I’m eligible to travel at discounted price as long as I can show the Transperth discount sticker at the back of my student card (which was handed during orientation day, on the following Monday).

The journey to City center was quite amazing experience for me not just enjoying the bus ride, but also seeing the neighborhood around there. The houses near the city center are mostly old houses that dating back to 1960s or before. We sometime see some flats around there. And also some shops of varying size.

What surprises me at that time was the lack of large modern shopping mall buildings like what I see in city centers in Indonesia, or Singapore (save for the moderately sized Myer). Instead we see an array of classic shops lining up the main streets, and pedestrian simply walking around while browsing. It’s quite similar to shopping experience in Surabaya during Dutch colonial era. (I later learn that modernshopping malls do exist in suburban areas).

As we approached the city center, the place got more crowded and more commercialized. Our bus later climbed a bridge which is named “Horseshoe Bridge” due to its curving shape. We disembark on the top of the bridge. This bridge is located right above the central railway station, aptly named Perth station.

Horseshoe bridge as seen from Wellington bus station. Back in 1997, the view was largely similar to this. We disembark at the bus stop on the top of this bridge, visible in the distance.

Perth station is a very busy station with multiple platforms. When we arrived, it was around midday with the usual hustle and bustle of the commuters who wants to travel by train. Dani* guided us to go down into the platform and then the ticketing office, just next to the station entrance. In here, Dani* helped us purchasing Multirider ticket. Since we only used for a few days, for routes around North Perth and the city center, we bought some 2 zone Multirider cards.

Perth station scenery. The ticketing and information office is the one underneath green banner, behind the pillar.

After that, we separate from Dani* as he have to go to his workplace, while we start browsing around the city. We crossed the street in front of the station, and arriving at a large square named Forrest Place flanked by classic building on one side and modern structure on another. The modern building has “MYER” sign on its wall, and it is obviously a large department store, which is named as “Forrest Chase”.

Forrest Chase as seen from Forrest Place, 2nd August 1997.

While the elderly building is a post office, or better known as GPO (General Post Office), which is the main post office in the city of Perth. Back when internet was a luxury, smartphone was unheard of, and internet social media was non-existent, Post Office played major role in covey messages between people separated by far distance, by delivering important documents, but sometime greeting card or even ordinary snail mail!

GPO (General Post Office) with Bank West tower in the background.

The Forrest Place in front of GPO was busy with people. Some just sits there and enjoying scenery, others chats with their friends, walking around, or just sitting, but generally it was like a center of activities in the city. We walk up a bit, and seeing a road that has been turned into pedestrian path. The road was once one of the busiest in the city.

Forrest Place as seen in 2011. GPO building can be seen hidden behind the trees on the left, while Forrest Chase on the right. The roofed structure on bottom left didn’t exist in 1997.

Despite the closure from road traffic, the business in the place kept booming. I later learned that the street name is Murray street. Although Murray street itself stretching from east to west of business district, the portion near GPO has long been converted to pedestrian area.

Posing with my sister at Forrest Place.

My sister said Doddy will come to meet us, and also took us around to see the city and surrounding area.

While waiting for Doddy, I felt like I want to pee. So I decided to go a nearby public toilet to relieve myself. It was located under the stair at the crossing across the road from station. The toilet looked rather rundown and a bit scary too. But the shocking part was when I found how the urinal looks like. Apparently Australian style urinals are open, without any partition. So you virtually have no privacy in here. Chance of the person next to you looking at your private parts exist. I was initially embarrassed, and decided to use enclosed toilet (I later learn to adapt myself with this type of urinals).

After finished up my business in the toilet, I return back to my sister and my father.

While waiting for Doddy to come, I also see sights that truly shocked me at first: public display of affection. Some people can be seen kissing their partner intimately in public space, without drawing any attention from passer by. They do that without hesitation! I later learn that this habit is quite common, even in some colleges too, as long as they have reached mature age.

Back home in Indonesia, doing such thing would invite troubles. Even kissing scene on the TV will normally be censored. In here, we can get to see that (or even doing it if you like) for free!

It wasn’t really long before Doddy turned up and the take us for trip to explore Perth and Fremantle area.



About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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