Remembering 1997: The Sweetest Year in My Life (Part 28):

As my return date to Indonesia is getting near, my parents came to pick me up from Australia, and also do me some favor by alleviating luggage weight on our flight back home. I remember it was on Saturday evening, after my IELTS exam, where I and Siraj went to the airport to pick my parents up. Siraj was on off duty, so we went with his personal car. Along the journey Siraj asked “Now you must be really happy that you can see your parents again. You must have missed them.” I hesitantly replied “Yes”. Admittedly, I felt nervous. After almost 6 months of being free of my parent’s control and can led a free life for being adult, I would return back again to become “mommy’s boy”.

We arrive at Perth airport’s international terminal. Although it was already late, and roads were already deserted, the terminal was quite busy. There were many people waiting on the terminal, mostly came to wait for the flights from Bali to arrive. Despite of Bali’s popularity among Australians, majority of flights from Bali arrive at night. Both Garuda and Qantas arrive at night, while other airlines like Ansett, Sempati, or Merpati arrive at different timing (which I forget now).

 

An evening view of Perth International Airport.  

My parents came from Surabaya, with transit at Bali, to Perth using Qantas flight. The reason why they flew with the airline is because I had chosen to fly with Qantas, instead of Garuda, as I wanted to feel how it does feel like to fly with “white people’s airline”. So we would fly together on their return flight to Bali.

At around 11’o clock, my parent’s flight finally arrive. After additional 30 minutes to clear immigration and custom, as well as collecting the baggage, we finally meet at the arrival hall. My mother was so happy that she can finally meet me after almost 6 months away. They were really surprised how much I have gained weight, and apparently now I’m also sporting beard. They also shook hand with Shiraj and also asking how my life in Australia has been.

We drove from the airport to the Pacific motel where my parents would stay.

My parents stayed at Pacific Motel, which was located just across the road from St. Mark’s International College.

Throughout the journey, my mother told her story about how hilarious Qantas cabin service can be. She told me on how the cabin crew can crack some jokes while serving some passengers, or passing some peanut snack from one crew to another by throwing it like passing ball in rugby match. It was really a stark contrast to Garuda’s dull and conservative service at that time.

That night, my parents would sleep in the hotel while I still stay at Shiraj’s house. They say that they will visit Shiraj’s house to pay visit to his family, and then we would travel around the city. Once they checked in into the hotel, I and Shiraj drove back to his house where we would settle down and go to sleep.

That morning, after breakfast, my parents came and knocked Shiraj’s door and everyone greeted them. They were greeted by everyone, including Suhail and Shimla which delighted my parents. It was the first for my mother to visit Shiraj’s house, while it was the second time for my father. My father is also surprised when Wahyu* greeted him. He asked where Danny* and Erick* are now, and we replied by saying that both have long moved out. My mother is also amused by the fact that Wahyu* came from Surakarta, the same place where my mother’s extended family come from.

Once we settled down, we had a brief conversation in the living room. My father asked Siraj about how I have been throughout the stay in his house.  Siraj said that I have been a well behaved and very polite. He also made joke about my habit of conquering the TV remote or watching matured adult rated show in the TV. My father also made fun about my habit of watching railway tracks whenever we travel to the countryside away from Surabaya (although back then my railfanning hobby was dormant), and also me being a “silent guy”. But then Shah Jehan came to my defense, and said that throughout the stay in here I was quite a talkative person.

After some conversation, Shiraj showed my parents around the house. Well, admittedly, the house looks rather shabby. The messy appearance of the house bothered my mother. So much that my mother thinks, if she could spend longer time in here, she would clean everything up.

Once we finished looking around the house, I and my parents went for tour around the city. After we bid farewell to the Shirajs, we started walking around the city. First we went to my college direction. My mother truly marveled on how ample the number of parks in the city.

Relaxing at Hyde Park. My mother truly marveled how lush the greenery is, despite of its close proximity from city center. An impossible feat in Indonesia at that time.

It was Sunday, on 7th December 1997, and the city was largely quiet.

She said that had the Surabaya city council sees similar thing, they would have quickly sold the land to developers! Back then, Surabaya mayor was a controversial figure who sold many empty lands and parks around the city to be turned into commercial areas, while the sales money mostly went into his personal bank accounts.

We took some photos in front of my campus. It was Sunday, and the place was largely deserted. From there, we went to catch the train to Fremantle. We walked for quite a long distance, under strong sunlight, through the suburb of Mount Lawley. My parents truly marveled on how quiet and nice the neighborhood is, despite of its close proximity to the city center and a major railway station.

After crossing the Lord Street, we entered the vast East Perth terminal complex. The Indian Pacific and Prospector train had departed the station before we came, so we can still see the remains of activities on that day. There were a crowd of railway employees who packing up their working equipment or well-wishers that still stay after the train that was boarded by their loved ones departed. If there is no Indian Pacific train, East Perth terminal would have been completely deserted, save from a few ticketing or cleaning service employees.

We walked into the East Perth suburban train station, on the island platform adjacent to East Perth terminal. I taught my parents on how to use the ticketing machine. My mother truly marveled how the ticket vending machine works. I also said to my father that the ticket issued from the vending machine was also valid for bus trip.

Today we went for a trip to Fremantle, so from East Perth we would sit back and enjoy our train trip all the way to Fremantle. My mother was really impressed on how clean and comfortable the suburban train service in Perth is. Although MRT in Singapore (which we traveled back in 1994 and 1995) was equally clean and tidy, the Transperth suburban train features forward facing seats, which makes the journey much even comfortable.

However, our joyride was somehow cut short earlier than planned. Upon arriving at Perth station, the driver announced through PA speaker than the train service had to be terminated here, due to a reason that I now forgot, and passengers were asked to board replacement bus service provided in front of the station. So we disembark from our train and head to the parking lot in front of the station where our replacement bus is ready. It was an articulated bus. Since the number of passengers were small, due to weekend, one bus is sufficient to accommodate the Fremantle-bound passengers.

Since the bus service is a replacement for train service, it traveled through longer route that are not straightforward, as it has to enter car parks on all railway stations along the Fremantle line. Some stations are located well away from Perth-Fremantle highway, so it would make our journey felt very long. Combined with the scorching hot summer weather, and lack of air conditioning on our bus, it truly made our journey slightly uncomfortable.

When our bus passes next to the Leighton yard, I saw a long hopper train hauled by green colored locomotive which have streamlined nose. Upon looking at the loco, I suddenly remember that it must be the loco that was featured on Indian Pacific brochures. I latter learn that the loco is known as EL-class loco, and these days I happily own its miniature replica painted in Australian National livery.

An EL class loco with its distinctive sloped nose is seen hauling The Ghan express train across Adelaide. Indian Pacific train have similar coaches, albeit without orange stripe.

Our bus finally arrived at Fremantle station, and we start walking into the Market Street direction, and enjoying the scenery of the busy downtown Fremantle. We also visited Fremantle market which was busy with a lot of activities. I remember my parents bought some candies and merchandise to be brought back home. We also saw an art performance in front of the market, which attracted quite a lot of audience.

From the market I invited my parents to see the Fremantle prison. They were initially puzzled on why would I asked them to visit a prison. They had never seen anything like it before. But I told them that this place is quite different and worthy tourist object to visit. After listening to my explanation, they agreed to visit the Fremantle Prison.

Posing in front of Fremantle Prison with my parents.

I don’t think I need to explain the detail of our visit, because I have explained earlier. But the visit to the prison truly opened their eyes on how Australian can organize a tourist attraction professionally. They were truly amazed on how the Australian can turn a high security prison camp into an enjoyable tourist attraction. Indeed they didn’t feel daunted by the visit at all.

At that time, one similar prison in Surabaya, the Kalisosok Prison, was still in operation and wasn’t slated for preservation. Indeed after its closure in 2000, the prison compound is now in derelict condition. In addition, Surabaya city at that time was a dour and not tourist friendly city. Seeing how the Australian can organize historic tourist objects in Perth and Fremantle truly impressed my parents. It was a stark contrast of what we had in Surabaya back then.

While we strolling around the Fremantle prison with our tour groups, I suddenly heard locomotive horn and rumble of passing trains in the distance. That must be the EL-class loco hauling the hoppers. I wish if I wasn’t with my parents, I would have taken its photo. That turned out to be the only occasion where I see the locomotive. I’ve never seen it again since.

Once we completed our tour in Fremantle Prison, we went back to the town to do some additional window shopping before we return back to Perth. We did some brief shopping in the city, where we also visited London Court Arcade with its unique façade that fascinate my mother. We bought some merchandise for our family and relatives back home.

Shopping at London Court.

I also took my parents to King’s Park, where my mother is keen to know how the view of the city looks like does. She truly marveled the experience, and how the city planning is.

Enjoying the view of Perth city from Kings Park.

Upon completion of our shopping activities in the city, we head back to Pacific motel. Tonight, we will stay together in the hotel. I’ve already brought many of my clothing for the occasion and had already informed Shiraj that I will stay with my parents that night.

TO BE CONTINUED

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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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