Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bromance in Bangalore

I was in Bangalore walking along the stately Cubbon Park when I saw these two gentlemen. Though I honestly didn't mean to pry, they were walking where I was headed. Before long, I saw their fingers lock as they walk hand in hand, seemingly lost in their own world. Sweet. :)

Eye in the Sky indeed.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gold Coast Airport in Coolangata, Queensland

Another Survival Post, this feature has Gold Coast Airport (GCA), formerly Coolangata Airport. Located at the southern end of the Gold Coast, effectively straddling part of New South Wales, the airport is located a few minutes from the eastern coast, and 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Brisbane. It services both international and domestic flights. It's also the third fastest growing airport in Australia.

A refurbished facade.
GCA is small and, relatively "simple". It offers a no-frills arrival and departure in Queelnsland, i.e. it's more functional than it is a leisure/recreational hub. This airport welcomes more than 350 direct flights each week from many international and domestic destinations including flights from Australia, 

New Zealand and Asia, particularly Kuala Lumpur, being serviced by Air Asia-X. There is a section of retail outlets including a Duty Free store to ensure the experience at Gold Coast airport is both enjoyable and efficient.  

There are airport shuttle services that take arriving passengers to Surfer's Paradise. Soon, even a train line will connect the airport to the area's main tourist drag. 

The Arrival Hall has a few shops and restaurants, just before you check in. The pre-departure area has a busy vibe, and the hallway is filled with dining tables and chairs. In fact, it feels more like a dining hallway than a pre-departure area. What's more important - food is relatively affordable, and there are several options. There are some check-in machines if you don't have a luggage to check-in. Otherwise, you'd have to queue at the baggage drop counter, which is a busy line. I arrived here via Air Asia-X and left with Jetstar, one of the most affordable airlines we've encountered while traveling in Australia. If only they re-train their flight stewardesses to be more congenial to their passengers, it would even attract more customers. Though my experience was particularly pleasant, I observed some not-so-palatable situations involving flight attendants and their customers. Let's just say patience re-training should be inculcated. In fact, shouldn't it be inherent in their job description? But yeah, I'd still fly Jetstar. What's a two-hour flight to Melbourne or a one-hour flight to Sydney?

Parking at the Gold Coast Airport is easy. You have two options: the covered parking and the open air parking, both locateed just across the entrance-exit hall. There are parking machines (below) where you pay for the time and space used. Girlie, in fact, leaves her car at the parking whenever she travels through Coolangata than Brisbane International. The public bus, if you decide to use it, has to be informed of your arrival (if you decide to avail of its service), and this usually takes quite sometime because the bus has to individually drop its passengers all over the Gold Coast. 

This is the Eye in the Sky!     

This is the departure hallway right after clearing immigration and customs.

Queue at the check-in counters.

Self check-in if you haven't done it online.

Baggage Drop

Sumo Salad and Hungry Jack's

Nope, it isn't just a food court. This is actually the Pre-departure Area where the Boarding Gates are.

A Boarding Gate

Arrival Hall

Where to?

Covered Parking just across the Departure/Arrival Hall

Parking machine. Get your car park ticket here and pay with your credit card.

Can you believe this is Queensland at 4:30 AM?

Map of Gold Coast Airport (legend below).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Queensland Train Stations - Brisbane Central and Coomera Station

This feature will be one of those Survival Posts which aims to help travelers empower or familiarize themselves with these Queensland stations.

Brisbane Central (seen above and on the 3rd photo) is a major interchange for train services on the City network. If you're coming from Queensland and visiting Brisbane, you'd eventually stop here. Imagine how it was on August 18, 1889. Most of the structure was made of wood and corrugated galvanized iron, a familiar roofing material in Philippine houses. These days, the two-level facade has uncoordinated colors: pink at the second level; yellow and blue at the first.

Originally, the building had a front stone portico, but it was demolished to widen Ann Street and replaced by a fancy Art Deco awning. The clock tower was designed by J.J. Clarke. The typical arched railway hall over the tracks was dismantled in the late 1960's.

There's an underground passage from Central to ANZAC Square (4th photo). The lobby has ticket booths and fast food shops; ATM  machines and snack bars. Just outside, facing Ann Street is the beautiful Grand Central Hotel. At the back of the station, Sofitel towers over. There are, supposedly 6 platforms although I've only seen 4 - or I wasn't attentive enough. If you're using the trains more than once, it is advisable to buy those reloadable value cards than single tickets. The station feels safe, and it's a comfortable place to visit.

Coomera Station, on the other hand, is in the Coomera suburb of Queensland, in zone 10 of Translink integrated public transport. There are supposedly regular buses between Coomera and the theme park Dreamworld though I haven't noticed this. Most times, the station feels deserted whether its daytime or night time.

Just for completion, here are their stops: "In the northbound (Brisbane-bound) direction, trains make stops at Loganlea and Coopers Plains and run express to the city centre, taking 59 minutes to arrive at Central station at an average of 60.0 km/h (37.3 mph). During weekday peak times, all trains will make all stops to Beenleigh, Then run express to South Bank. Trains heading northbound continue onto the Airport Line, connecting the city to Brisbane Airport. In the southbound (Varsity Lakes-bound) direction, trains continue to Varsity Lakes and take 22 minutes, averaging 94.6 km/h (58.8 mph)." You can head towards Brisbane International Airport by train. 

There's absolutely no hustle and bustle outside Coomera Station; no taxis waiting, no touts familiar in Asia; and unfortunately, nor public transport to speak of as well (although it is supposedly serviced by an integrated public transport system). Maybe I need to wait for an hour for that? And yes, it can get eerie at night.

This is the Eye in the Sky

Clock Tower. Sofitel at the back.

Bypass Ann Street outside the station. This underpass directly takes you to ANZAC square.

Buy your tickets at this Brisbane Central booth.

Plenty of ATM machines in Brisbane Central.

Waiting platforms at Brisbane Central.

Entrance at the Coomera train station.

Entrance to Coomera station.

Stairs leading to the Coomera platform.

Coomera platform

Coomera platform at night.

Waiting sheds outside Coomera Station (above and below).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Brisbane as the Urban Landscape

What makes a city? In the Philippines, a minimum annual income of PhP100 million pesos ($2.2 million) could get one its cityhood, thus if a town has a cement or steel factory, a bottling plant, a copra or sugar mill, they may just qualify. In Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, it could be a checklist of things. Not the least of which are the architectural structures arising from the land. I am into geometrical forms, curves and panels, cascades, play of colors, highways, gyms, murals, butterfly structures, sculptures, and skyscrapers. Of course there's the occasional flower here in there. I didn't have lofty expectations about Brisbane, but it didn't disappoint.

But really, more than these physical creations, it's the people who built, the people who conceptualized, the people who warmly smiled when asked for directions (or even when you didn't) - these are what makes a city!

In a series of photographs that accentuate architectural styles, here is my homage to Brisbane.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Myers Centre (above and below)

Cinema Hall at the Myers Centre.

J. Seward Johnson, Jr.'s "Big Sister"

Brisbane's Story Bridge (above and below)