If I suddenly woke up in a street in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, I'd probably think I was anywhere but Queensland. Unlike the places I visited here, this suburb of Brisbane looks a bit rough, and worn, and a tad forgotten. But I am getting ahead of myself, am I not?
Whenever I travel to a new place, I have this habit of enjoying half a day just taking a long walk, allowing my feet to take me - no maps, no itinerary. This particular sojourn was just via Ann Street, the road fronting Brisbane Central; the city's northernmost street, and more importantly, a major thoroughfare like EDSA, or Orchard Road. It links the suburb of Fortitude Valley and the Riverside expressway. I reckon, if I just walked through its length, it'd be easy to get back to - I wouldn't need a map. I can run rings around its side streets and get right back to Ann Street, and so on.
Sometimes, not planning has its disadvantages. Why? Because Fortitude Valley is actually home to 29 heritage-listed sights, but this time I wasn't in The Valley to check them out. What I observed however was the huge crowds gathering in bars.
Clubs, restaurants, and bars rise side by side for this bohemian, avant garde, cosmopolitan, alternative spirit. Anything that might spell excitement and adventure is here. Even gay bars are found here, like Royal George Hotel's. There are adult shops as well along Brunswick that reminded me of London's SoHo, Hamburg's Reeperbahn, or Amsterdam's red light district. But Brissie's version looked subdued. In fact, if you go inside these stores, nothing would surprise you. They are what you'd expect them to sell: sex toys and fetishist materials, videos, porn mags - and there's even an adult theatre at Everything Adult (EA) shop that charges $10/day. Yup, that's the one with the yellow walls, looking more like a candy store - or a souvenir shop more than a sex shop. Near Everything Adult is "The Den" which is bigger than EA. A few steps from The Den is a "striptease" club called Cabaret.
But what thrilled me more was Chinatown. There's a pedestrian lane with row after row of restaurants, and they're not all Chinese. There were half a dozen Thais I saw. There's Indian, Turkish, Balinese, Nepali, etc. There's even a Filipino shop. And this conglomeration of gastronomies render the place eclectic. Meanwhile, some streets are filled with colorful graffiti too. There's a train station nearby (a stop away from Brisbane Central).
Stylish designers have started to sprout in the area, though I didn't see them along Ann Street. There's a mall, several groceries and supermarkets. New buildings are rising in the zone. But to be honest, the area isn't meant for your ideal family day out. It is a leisure hub for those who party hard, and it's just about a kilometer away east of the CBD.
Fortitude Valley was named after the ship that carried Scottish immigrants a long time ago. They settled in this suburb. Now, it is coming to life again. In the next couple of years, brisk development is expected to change the face of the rundown shops. I hope it doesn't rid of its old world charm. Unfortunately, some things are inevitable.
This is the Eye in the Sky!
|Royal George Hotel|
|Everything Adult is a sex shop and a porn theatre at the second floor.|
|The Den is another sex shop along Brunswick Street.|