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Brisbane

Now in Brisbane. Impressions:

* Wow, customs was easy. Get a ticket with my passport at an electronic kiosk, get my bag, hand the ticket and my declaration form to someone, walk out. It's harder to get back into the US as a citizen. You'd think they would at least sniff my luggage more to make sure I'm not bringing in undeclared lifeforms.

* Getting a working SIM was a pain. In Osaka I bought it, the salelady installed it for me, and it worked right away, e.g. I could use it to plan my route to my stay. Here I bought it, I installed, it, I used airport wifi to register it (and I needed my laptop; Telstra's website failed in my phone browser), I was told it would be activated in four hours; I had to get home on screenshots of the route. I got an activation message after 2 hours. It actually still didn't work, and I had to go to a store to get APN data, since apparently my phone failed to get that on its own.

* Brisbane feels like a less car-oriented LA. Warm, dry, subtropical plants, more walkability and transit.

* Trains and busways (BRT) seem to run every 15 minutes, with overlapping routes. Some of the trains may switch to 30 minutes after 19:00. Just looking at routes through Rome Station on Google Maps is actually pretty confusing, lots of things seem to be rush hour only or something.

* The busways might be even more frequent than 15 minutes, actually. OTOH that still leaves them filling up and leaving people waiting around 15:15, when a local school gets out.

* The busways DO NOT ANNOUNCE THE NEXT STOP. There's neither a display or a voice-announcement. This is amazingly primitive compared to anything I've experienced for years now, even more so for BRT that's trying to imitate a train experience.

* Lots of drinking fountains, at least at parks and on QUT campus. Including "water bottle filling" modes.

* Lots of school uniforms. Lots of what I would guess are middle/junior high schoolkids going home on their own by transit (albeit in large groups.)

* The Botanical Garden is a 24-hour park, and seems pretty neat. I think I saw fruit bats in the dusk. Also huge colonies of Australian ibises, like an open-air aviary.

* Lots of ibises out and about too, like large exotic pigeons; one cleaned up the remains from my falafel wrap.

* Tipping: apparently not required, with a minimum wage of over AUD$17/hour.

* Money! AUD $1 = 2/3 $USD. $AUD/kg -> $USD/lb means dividing by 3.3. Or dividing by 3 and taking another 10% off, or dividing by 3 and letting yourself be surprised by spending less than you though.

AUD/kg * 5 kg / 11 lbs * 2/3 USD/AUD = 10/33 USD/lb.

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Damien Sullivan
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