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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Days 175 & 176: My last day in Japan.... and my first in Oz!

JAPAN | Monday, 28 April 2008 | Views [683]

Perth Mint

Perth Mint

Monday 28th & Tuesday 29th April

I had to be out of the internet cafe at 05.00, so my alarm woke me at 04.45, I grabbed my stuff and headed back out onto the streets of Tokyo to find the sun up and a fair amount of  people on the street. The debris of the previous night was still blowing about in the wind, and there were groups of stragglers making their way home after a late night. I took the Metro to Tokyo station and left my rucksack in a locker until later in the day, and then headed off to Tsukiji Fish Market – one of the most famous in the world – to see what all the fuss was about.

I had read that the authorities who ran the market in central Tokyo were considering closing off sections of the market floor to tourists, after workers had complained that these mainly international visitors were getting in the way, interfering with their business and posing a risk to the health and safety of all. I arrived at 06.00 to find plenty of other tourists milling about and with no obvious restrictions imposed on them, so it appeared to be business as usual.

I took a walk through the busy alleys, which were crowded with people, polystyrene boxes that were full of fish and ice and were packed on top of each other; many motorised carts that are used to move the mountains of stock from the lorries to the stalls zipped about the place, and I had to jump out of the way of these on more than one occasion. It was an interesting place: fish of all sizes were on offer, from the smallest fry to massive tuna, all on sale to the highest bidder. However, even though I was as free to roam around as anyone who worked there, I was still aware that I was probably getting in the way, and only spent a total of about fifteen minutes having a look around.

Instead, I took the advice of several people and had breakfast of some very fresh sushi, and it turned out to be better and more enjoyable than I had expected. It certainly didn't come any fresher than this, and it was a reasonable price too. The meal was good, but it still didn't turn me on to sushi completely, and I don't think I will ever be totally sold on it.

For the rest of the day, I pottered about town, nipping in and out of some t-shirt shops, and bought a few bits and pieces before I got the 'Narita Express' out to the airport. I went out early to try and recover the gift that I had bought for Kumi and, with the help of a really nice girl from JAL, managed to get it back from the lost property (which was located at a considerable distance from the main terminal) and post it to Kumi in Osaka before I checked into my Qantas flight to Perth at about 17.30.

The flight itself took off on time at about 20.30, and it felt good to sit still and relax after running around Tokyo since early morning. It didn't really dawn on me that I was leaving Asia until after we had taken off. I think it was the sight of the older, fatter and uglier Aussie crew that made me miss the delicate, well presented, smiling Asian girls I had been used to on most of my previous flights on the trip. I genuinely felt sad about leaving Asia after spending six months there, and it had clearly left a bigger impression on me than I had imagined. I had felt very comfortable there, the people had generally been very nice and it was just very appealing. I will definitely be going back.

I was also starting to feel really tired and managed to get a few hours sleep, and I was able to stretch my legs over to the side as there was nobody in the seat beside me. The old earplugs came in handy yet again and I didn't realise that the crew were starting to serve breakfast until I woke up at 04.30 to see the cabin lights on full blast.

The flight touched down onto the the runway at Perth Airport just after 06.00, and we were off the plane pretty quickly. I got my bag and queued up at Immigration, and I was met by an officer who proceeded to grill me about the purpose of my trip to Australia, how long I was going to be staying in the country, and so on. He even looked through my phone and questioned who some of my text messages were from, and I complied as well as I could as I didn't fancy being detained any longer than was necessary (he looked like the type of guy who needed to have something to do to fill up his day). He told me that he was just making sure that my story stood up, especially as I was classified as a 'backpacker' (maybe it would have been different if I had been wearing a suit and had an expensive Samsonite bag). I was more than a bit annoyed, and wondered whether the droves of Aussies who arrive in England or Ireland to work in their shitty pub jobs get the same treatment as people entering their country do, but somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, after about half an hour, he let me go and I was met by my folks when I walked out to the arrivals hall. It had been about six months since I had said goodbye to them on a grey Saturday afternoon in Derry, when I had dropped them off at the airport bus in Foyle Street. It was great to see them, and even more exciting as it was so far away from home. They were looking very well and seemed to be enjoying their holiday having arrived in Australia after spending a few days in Dubai and Singapore. They had been staying with my aunt Marie-Therese in her house near Brisbane for a week before they flew over to Perth. They had rented an apartment in Scarborough Beach, just north of Perth, for the few days that we were going to stay there, before going on a trip to the south-west corner, which included the famous Margaret River area.

After I got showered and changed, had some food and caught up a bit more on what we had been up to, we got the bus into Perth and visited the information centre to try and get some advice on what we might see and do while we were there. We left with a mountain of brochures and advice from a very helpful lady who suggested that we visit the Perth Mint. It was an interesting place, particularly for Dad who was a keen coin-collector back in the day, and he was clearly familiar with a lot of the artefacts that were on display in the museum. It told the history of Perth Mint as one of a handful of Royal Mints in the whole of the British Commonwealth, and it also provided background on the western Australian goldrush which happened at the end of the 1800s. It's a place worth visiting and you get to see them pour a bar of 99.9% pure gold, which isn't something that you get to see everyday.

After the Mint, we walked around the commercial district and along the riverfront of the Swan River. It is a very nice looking town, and the people seemed friendly. There were a lot of people jogging and cycling, and this image lived up to my expectations of Australia as being a very sporty and active kind of society. We had dinner at a really good Italian restaurant but the tiredness was getting the better of me, so we headed back to Scarborough Beach and I crashed out shortly after we got back, finally getting into a comfortable bed after a few days away from one.


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