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Brisbane Revisited

Singapore noodles (char bee hoon) at 20 Aussie dollars a plate? I could get that for half the price even in downtown Sydney. And a quarter of that price in Singapore itself. Maybe I was at a touristy place, a food joint in the middle of Queen Street Mall. Couple that with a huge glass of fat yak, teenagers hanging around as in any cbd and a lively air unexpected of a Tuesday night. Welcome to Brisbane.

The evening before, there were a fair share of fitness-conscious runners and group barbies humming along the South Bank. When Shane arrived from Adelaide late at night, we had gone over for a quick drink - and chose to have it in an unusual combination of a a liquor shop with a serving bar. I had never seen one like that in other parts of Oz, but I do not exactly hold a good record of pub-hopping. Welcome to Brisbane.

Queen Street Mall has always fascinated me, whether after a State of Origin NRL game between NSW and Queensland, or on an unassuming evening after a whole day of conference. In late March, the air is till balmy and inviting. I think it must be one of the longest pedestrian malls Down Under. This time, I realised that it is not flat like Pitt Street Mall in Sydney or Bourke Street in Melbourne, but actually has an incline. What I also did not expect was a teenage guy begging for money - not in Brisbane I thought, with the same aghast when I first encountered such beggars along George Street in Sydney CBD in the mid-nineties.

On the other hand, there was a pleasant surprise in encountering a sort of compact marsupial under the moon light in the river side Botanical Gardens. The creature, with endearing big eyes, was as taken aback as us on a wide clear path. It seemed to be nursing an injured limb. We could see the Wheel of Brisbane, in all its white fluorescent glory, across the Brisbane River. The river is the pulse of Brisbane, offering secret delights and perspectives. Mine this time was to feel the wind in my face, as I stood at the front of a Citicat boat chugging up to Queensland University at St. Lucia. The deck hand had to tie the ropes up each time we approached a stop -and there were many. He then had to untie them when we left. Observing this gave me a sense of rhythm about life on the river banks - a timelessness of routine, patience and getting things done.

I loved using the waffle machine at breakfast one morning, churning them out before splashing each piece with honey. The gadget operated automatically, although it gave a human feel to the experience, providing supple waffles of the right taste and texture every time.

Oh ya, the stir-fried rice vermicelli ala Singapore was indeed delicious, better than in Sydney. It was garnished with lots of fresh and spicy-hot red chili cuts. Even the convention centre food was great. I was reluctant to leave Brisbane.

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