Monday, 24 June 2013

Western Australia Part 3: The Historic Harbour Town of Fremantle

Dawn in Fremantle. 

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Why Fremantle?
Fremantle (or referred by some as Freo) is like a KFC combo set, where you can get cool things all wrapped into one set. From historical site to modern life leisure centre, Fremantle is not just a suburb area and a dream town for pensioners, rather it promises a great deal of potential to be commercialised. A day in Fremantle will never be enough. Never.

Freo here we come!

About Fremantle
Located less than 30 km from our home stay, journey to the historic town of Fremantle only took about half and hour. The traffic was so smooth and the local drivers were nice and civilised (unlike most drivers in Malaysia, whose driving skills portrayed the mind of the third class). But the speed limit of 60 km/hr was killing (in Malaysia, the speed limit for highway is 110 km/hr). Nevertheless, we arrived in Fremantle safe and sound. That would be the utmost important thing. 

Fremantle gave us the feel of a nice suburb area, with a small town, nicely organised neighborhood houses and beautiful beaches facing the meeting point of the Indian Ocean and the Swan River. Named after Captain Charles Howe Fremantle, Fremantle was the first settlement by the Swan River colonists in 1929. 

A Town Built by Convicts
Initially, Fremantle was the settlement for military and civillians who migrated by choice. The convicts were not in the picture as yet. It was difficult back then, not having adequate and proper communication, transportation and administrative facilities. So it was decided that for the purpose of development, convicts to be sent to built all the necessary infrastructure.

It is reasonable to comprehend that among the first infrastructure built by the convicts would be their own prison - the Fremantle Prison. The Fremantle Prison has its own interesting story so I will deal with the story in a separate entry, okay. As for this entry, I will share my experiences on other interesting places in Fremantle. 

Welcome to the Shipwreck Galleries of Fremantle

One: Fremantle Shipwreck Galleries (Entry by Donation)
As the name implies, this museum housed hundreds of treasures and relics from many ships wrecked along the coastline of Western Australia. Entry is by gold coin donation, but if you do not intend to give any, the door is still widely opened to welcome you to join in the interesting voyage. On top of that, there would be free guided tours that bring you to the exploration, shipwreck, mutiny and murder at 10 am, 11 am, 2 pm and 3 pm respectively. 

The remains of the Batavia Ship

The highlight of this gallery would be the Batavia Gallery, where the reconstructed remains of the Batavia Ship, which is one of the famous shipwreck that tells the story of voyage in search for spices, survival, murder and mutiny. The remains were delicately arranged and displayed in a big hall, where visitors can view from the lower first floor level or climb up to the elevated viewing deck. This ship, which was the ship of the Dutch East India Company was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage after the struck of the Morning Reef near Beacon Island of the Western Australian Coast. The remaining timbers were discovered one by one and rearranged by a dedicated team, which obviously not an easy task to do. 

The anchor | The Steel | The Kitchen Artifacts

The survivors after the shipwrecked of Batavia, went out in search of food and fresh water to Batavia (now known as Jakarta in Indonesia) and upon return, they discover massacre of half of the survivors. This story is also embedded in a displayed skeleton of a crew member that still bear the scar of the gruesome attack. 

Among other things discovered were the anchors (most of them displayed outside of the museum), cannons and other artifacts. Some of the glasses, cups and plates seemed classical, though some of them looked just like the modern ones you have in your mom's kitchen. Some other parts displayed the reconstructed captain's room, the skeleton and other machinery discovered. Interesting isn't it?

Opened on daily basis (except on Wednesday and listed holidays) from 9 am to 5 pm. Oh, did I say that the building that house this gallery was among the first building built by the convict?

Round House Entrance

Two: The Round House (Entry by Donation)
Did you notice the similarity of the color of the building with the Shipwreck Galleries? So it means that both buildings were built using the same substance and material i.e. the limestone. I initially thought that the Round House was also built by the convicts, however, this was not the case as there was no convict labour available as yet. 

Located nearby the Shipwreck Galleries, we do not have a reason not to drop by at this place. Besides, the entry, again is by donation of gold coin. If you have none, the door is also widely opened, and you may find volunteers greeting you with friendly smile. 

Open daily 10:30 am to 3:30 pm

Upon entry, we were greeted by a lady by the name of Celine, who happened to be a volunteer at the place. She explained all the things related to the building. Initially the Round House was built as prisons for colonial and indigenous people in the 19th century. Later, it became a police lock up for temporary lock ups and later it became the residence of the chief constable and his family.

So hard to imagine the chief constable actually lived here with his wife and ten children. And none of their rooms had windows to view the spectacular meeting point of the Indian Ocean and the Swan river. 

Why was it called the Round House? No, not because the round shape of the well at the center of the building, but generally referring to the shape of the building. It was actually a 12 sided building with ablution area at the center. Other than the eight cells, there were also other rooms inside the building, but as for now, the second level was closed due to safety reasons. 

Given it has only eight cells, it was obvious that Round House would not be able to accommodate the hundreds of convicts. The convicts were instructed to build a now gaol named the Fremantle Prison. 

The original technical name of the Round House was the Dodecogenal House, which might be challenging to the tongue (berbelit lidah kau nak menyebut). There were also penalty equipment on the display. So far, only one person was hanged here in Round House, a boy of 15 years old, for the offence of murder another child. (Kalau kat Malaysia baru PMR kot, kau dah bunuh orang)

Outside of the Round House, facing the Indian Ocean, the Round House cannon was set facing the sea. Fired at 1 pm each day, mariners and tourists would take the chance to calibrate their digital watches and clock. Since we dropped by early in the morning, we didn't have the chance to witness the firing of the canon. 

E Shed from the car's window.

Three: The E Shed Market (Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holiday)
E Shed Market is a stone throw away from the Fremantle Railway Station, Fremantle Maritime Museum and Rottnest Ferry Terminals. Located in a warehouse on Victoria Quay and facing a magnificent working harbour above the dark blue water, the E Shed is promoted as the best waterside market in Western Australia. Based on my blog-walking activities conducted by me, most of the travelers recommended E Shed for souvenir shopping in Fremantle. But other than souvenir, you can also find international food, music, local handicrafts, antique, collectables, fashion, fruits, vegetables, hot drinks etc. 

Facing the working harbour, above the blue water

Some souvenir sold here. Bargain. Though the vendor were quite persistent.

Upon entrance, we were greeted by an Indonesian lady to her souvenir shop. Initially I wish to spend some time to walk further and observe. However, i noticed that most of the shops and stalls were closed. And the Indonesian lady's shop was the only one selling typical souvenirs in the E Shed. And due to common language i.e. Malay language, I could see she was making a huge profit on that day. 

Some snorkeling gear | Free Fremantle Tram Tours | Seagull by the Harbour

Later on, I encountered an article online in Fremantle Herald Interactive that most of the stalls were closed, abandoned by 12 traders who requested for a decreased rental price. No wonder it seemed like a dead shopping center, unlike those described by the bloggers. 

Things sold here are super cool. Especially those vintage stuff, they really drove me crazy! I really hope that the authority would do something about this place as it promises great deal of potential. 

Bathers Beach
Another name associated with this beach would be the whalers beach, due to whaling activities taken place decades ago. From the back of the Round House is the perfect spot to view the blue water from a higher ground. Bathers Beach was not actually that huge to be considered as a beach, rather it was a strip of sands of 300 metres from the harbour. If I could name one thing this beach offers - serenity. 

There are various reasons why Bathers Beach is such a great place for a getaway. Easy parking, nearby cafes and restaurants, walking distance from public transportation, grassy areas for picnic, shallow spots for swimming, dark blue waters during the daytime, clean beach, calm waters etc. It is a perfect spot from family spending time together and also best friend catching up after years apart. I can sit by this beach the whole day and forget everything else.

And still, I have not reached the best part of this beach. 

The sun set.
It reminded me that God is beautiful. He who created beautiful things. This is one of them. It was a remarkable feeling to perform prayer while facing the sea. It was so personal. Just between me and God. And people passing by unnoticed. 
As stated in their website, Cicerello has been the iconic eatery since its opening way back in 1903. All I know, I had never tasted a marvelous original chips till the day I stepped into Cicerello and ordered a set. Okay, that was a drama, but still, they served one of the best chips I've ever tasted. As for the halal certification, I could not locate any. In addition to most halal review given by bloggers, we did ask the waiter how did they prepare the food and we were informed no element of liquor whatsoever, hence we were comfortable to have dinner here, in Cicerello. 

Located by the Fremantle's Fishing Harbour, having dinner at Cicerello was indeed a unique eating experience. You can choose to sit indoor, surrounded by a huge aquarium our outdoor by the harbour, but given it was past sun set and it was winter, eating while freezing cold outside would be the last thing you would want to do, trust me.  

The portion was big for a person, so each serving was ordered to cater for two persons, well, unless your partner is a big eater. But still, for my family members who are indeed big eaters, ended up finger pointing to each other as to whom should be finishing the remaining food. For such a big portion, it was pricey. And to some it does not worth the money. 

But to me, any food, served during the period of ultimate hunger, would definitely be considered as worth the money. Ordering was simple. Just que up and make your order to the friendly receptionist, then you will be given a buzzer, so you can wait at your table until your buzzer makes its sound. You can go collect your meal after that. Ironically, the sauce and mayo were sold separately. But still you need the sauce and mayo or the whole thing would be tasteless. And also selection of drinks is self service from the fridge.  

Overall, I can say that no visit to Perth would be enough without a visit to Fremantle. It is accessible by public transport if you happened not to be driving. Most of must visit places were located nearby from one another, so most probably you will be able to complete your trip in a day. But still, Fremantle will always be there welcoming you with such a friendly ambiance.   

Go and have a look by yourself. 

Hairi Tahir

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