LIVING IN CAIRNS :: CAIRNS COSTS :: BUDGET TO HIGH ENDFor the past couple of months, ever since the great earthquake and tsunami compelled me to leave my home in japan, ever since I split up with my girlfriend in Vietnam I have been trying to live like a traveller, a full-time nomad. I spent long hours scouring the Internet, trying to estimate the costs of drinking in Thailand, or sleeping in Bali. I reckon I could circulate around southeast Asia for years, never running out of cool things to do and see. Ditto for India. That was south Asia basically covered (perhaps Malaysia and Singapore excepted); perhaps part of the Middle East were doable too. But what about the rest of the world? what about Australia? Since I was actually in southern Australia at the time of my wanderlust, it felt like a big piece of the puzzle was missing. There was a missing link.
The link was found, one sunny morning in August 2011, when I realized it is possible to receive unemployment benefits while traveling in Australia. Now I don't advocate or support dole bludging by any means, and I would not make it my lifestyle choice. Nonetheless, it is possible, if you are skint and want to stay awhile in Cairns, to come up (or over) here, and sign up. Centrelink could be your missing link, while you look for a job here. I was aiming to spend $30 a day on this trip. That would be about my daily allowance after accommodation if I were vagabonding through the bush. As it turned out, I averaged about $37 a day, but then again I had a sugar daddy to spring for a lot of my expenses. Australia is an expensive place to travel around, but budget solutions can be found, especially if you out of the big smoke. At any time in cairns there are promotions being run, happy hours lasting whole evenings, and pizzas given away for aus$5. Drinking out is not particularly cheap, but a case of 24 375ml bottles seems to go for around AUS$38, if you choose to drink Victoria Bitter, the working man's lager. That's about AUS$1.50 a bottle. At the other end of the spectrum, a Corona with lime at The Heritage nightclub will cost AUS$9. Somewhere in the middle, there are a lot of places selling a beer for around AUS$5. The cheapest drinking out option that I have found so far would be the Blue Sky Brewery, with bottles of the house Pilsener for AUS$. You could do what I saw some British backpackers do, and have a party in the back of your van, with a slab of VB's and drum'n'bass on the speakers. Cairns is the kind of place you can get away with this. The authorities are not as forgiving down in Kings Cross!
The past couple of months, ever since I split up with my girlfriend in Vietnam and found myself suddenly free to live out my wildest dreams, I have asked myself: is there some kind of golden ratio, basically the same anywhere in the world, between the price of your cheapest possible drink, and the most expensive you would normally be inclined to consume? (Note to self: it seems one to 433 seems to be a good guess.) Is there an algorithm you can activate, almost like a calculator, to not only estimate the cost of living wherever you are in the world, but to also direct you where to go next, based on a vast range of criteria (such as, exposure to the major ethnic or linguistic regions of the world). The algorithm is far from complete, but it seems to me that with my quirky lifestyle and alcohol addiction, I would need about AUS$1600 a month to survive and thrive in Cairns.
Bohemia Resort: One of the cheapest deals I have found is AUS$13 a night for a dorm bed, providing you stay a minimum of seven nights.
Share House Cairns: . Website: website here.
Winning! Apart from the hills and the beds of flowers there was not much to see around the airport, so I caught a cab downtown. I had an Indian man for a cabbie, and we had a leisurely midmorning chat about floods and tsunamis and life in Far North Queensland (or FNQ, as it is called here.) Before too long we were out of the lush cane fields and into the outskirts of town. The suburbs were classic country Queensland, but with an undeniably international edge. Rustic houses on stilts to protect themselves from floods, but plenty of foreigners around with their foreign ways. It seemed like every taxi driver in town was an Indian. There was some Indian looking architecture as well.
Beach House: Sheridan Street, Cairns. Website: website here. Bookings: book here on Hotel Travel.
This has become one of the my favorite places to relax and hang out. It is a quiet, chilled vibe in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the downtown bars. Mostly backpacker crowd: English, French, Germans, the odd Japanese. Events on virtually every night of the week: Tropical Tuesdays, trivial pursuit, beach volleyball on their sandy court. From time to time a plane fell from orbit to cut across the bright blue sky, on its approach to the airport.
According to a post I read on Global Gossip's noticeboard, Blue Sky Brewery is the only bar in Cairns which makes its own beer. They sell copious quantities of the Pilsener, with jugs costing only AUS$6 from 5pm to 7pm. If you miss Happy Hour, you can nonetheless enjpy a bottle of the stuff for $3. This is the best deal I have found so far in Cairns.
There were a lot of boats berthed at Trinity Wharf, as a matter of fact.
Fronting the wharf are the luxury hotels...
...including this one practically groaning beneath greenery.
Rounding the corner I came upon the Coral Sea, bristling with windsurfers, sailboarders, and even the odd helicopter heading off to the reefs.
There was even an open-air swimming pool set right on the bay, in case there are too many stingers in the sea.
Visit Marineland Melanesia on Green Island to see the exhibition of tribal art, and get some advice for my trip to New Guinea!.
...as has the Asian food invasion. A Japanese friend of mine, Ken Anazawa, reckons this food court looks just like those in Singapore. "Australia is becoming more like Asia all the time," he said. Ken-san was right... Cairns is a little slice of Asia amidst the cane fields and wide verandahs. For Australians it is a gateway to Asia, and jets from its airport fly to exotic destinations such as Singapore and Papua New Guinea. I would never have known that, if I hadn't spent a few lunch hours walking around the place. And like the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor meltdown which threw me out of Japan, my discovery here was totally an accident!