Canberra in Australia Capital Territory (ACT) is the nation’s capital. One expects that it is bustling with activities and that there are numerous tourists milling in the area. This is not the case for Canberra.
Yes, there are the usual activities one expect in the government center. Yes, there are people with different nationalities in the area. They, however, are the students in the numerous colleges and the famous Australian National University (ANU) located in city.
When we arrived in Canberra, everyone was pretty excited that the nation’s capital will be the first stop of a 2-city learning visit in Australia. As our bus drove along the main highway towards the city centre, I can’t help but notice the acres (not hectares, huh!) and acres of open land. Is this what I expected from a government center? Nahhh. We drove by the War Memorial, 2 lakes, a roundabout (aka rotunda) and numerous mid-high buildings. I knew it is usually quiet on a Sunday but the area was utterly quiet. Sleepy city, anyone?
Monday came and the streets were filled with people somehow. Office workers walking towards their buildings, students rushing to their unis. Yet, there is still order in a morning rush in Canberra. Case in point, I went walking around the city centre and although there were a number of joggers in the area, people seem to be so…calm while doing their own thing.
What I like about Canberra is the plaza in the city centre. Yes, there is Target (for the serious shoppers), Borders (I am assuming this is the famous bookstore chain) and numerous bars (to cater the young crowd) located in the city centre. The place, though, is one big park with benches and installations scattered all over. Just be very careful that you won’t be sitting on birds’ poo . You gotta love the place for it makes you want to stop, sit and people watch.
The city centre is also your go-to place when the stomach starts growling. I noticed that there are ALOT, I mean, numerous Asian restaurants in the area. On our first night, we had noodles in an Asian restaurant that serves Chinese, Lao and Thai cuisines. I was too full that night that I only had some tom yum soup and spring rolls.
The next 2 nights, though, I discovered a Turkish/Middle Eastern fastfood place near Wok In (another Asian kainan!). Aha, Alibaba – akin ka! I had kebab and falafel with fries for the next two dinners. In between, aka lunch, we were served with the usual Aussie food – steak, fish and chips, grilled chicken. Yummy but servings were too large.
Since Canberra is the capital, it is but fitting that the embassies are located in the city. We had a quick tour in the embassy row and I actually enjoyed looking at the different offices/embassies since the buildings’ designs show countries they represent. Japan has the minimalist look, Finland screams minimalist + modern, Indonesia has intricate sculptures on its facade, US got the whole block of red bricks gate and Pinas has the verandah ala bahay na bato.
Thanks to a new friend named Gil, a Filipino student in ANU, we learned more about Canberra. For instance, the structures are designed given the open spaces thus there are no skyscrapers in the area. The tallest edifice is the Telstra Tower followed by the new Parliament Building. No structure should be taller than the two. Another discovery : the lakes in the area are man-made yet it looked so natural. And another fact: everything is cheaper outside Canberra. If one wants to score some pasalubongs, buy them in Brisbane or Sydney.
Canberra can actually be compared to Los Banos because of ANU. When one steps into the campus, you feel like you want to study. It is so spacious you can claim a spot for your study sessions. The buildings are mixed of old (the usual old charm) and new (like the John Curtin’s Medical Science Building). The dorms…oh, the dorms! I’ve only been to Unilodge but the rooms are far better than what we have! The internet connection is so fast and every facility is student friendly. I think, there is no reason not to study if one got a campus and environ like ANU’s.
Canberra may not be the first city a first time visitor in Australia will try to visit. For the partyphile, it looks so dull; for the shopper, kinda expensive; and for the usual tourist, too little photo-ops. Canberra, though, provides a calming vibe so different from the other big cities with its open spaces and quiet aura. For a fuss free commune with nature trip, Canberra is the place to be.