Charlyn is one of the most Ikea-obsessed girls that I have ever seen in my life. We first met in 2008, when we were seated next to each other in high school back in Malaysia. After our graduation, I started med school in Melbourne and Charlyn thought she was too cool for Melbourne so she chose to continue her tertiary education in Brisbane!
Here’s Charlyn and here’s what she has to say about her amazing city — Brisbane!
Another fact: Charlyn is one of the best cooks among my friends. Our fond for food has grown so much after moving to Australia and maybe that’s the thing that keep us connected even more!
Who are you, where are you from and how long have you been living in Brisbane?
Hello! I’m Charlyn and I hail from a little coastal city in Sarawak, Malaysia, located on the Island of Borneo. I came to Brisbane to pursue a degree in nursing 3 years ago and have lived here since.
Why did you choose to live in Brisbane?
During my time in uni I have grown a fond affection of Brisbane which has many similarities to my hometown in Malaysia. The Sunshine State capital has plenty of sunshine all year round and is in close proximities to the many beautiful beaches you can visit in Australia.The not-so-hectic yet not-so-laidback lifestyle makes it the top reason to settle in this city.
What do you do for a living?
I am taking a few months’ gap before I venture into a nursing career. In the meantime, I work as a cafe all-rounder at Sinmei Tea — an internationally acclaimed tea house — brewing tea, making tea desserts, cooking up Asian inspired dishes and taking photos too!
Do you speak the main language (English) spoken in Brisbane? If not, what are the main difficulties that you faced while you first lived there?
English is spoken here in Brisbane and I am comfortable speaking it as I have learnt the language at a very young age. However, it took me a while to get used to the local Aussie slangs! Mingling around my Aussie friends and learning the slangs through Internet memes certainly helped!
Do you like or hate the public transport in Brisbane? Why so?
I loooooove catching the public transport around Brisbane! With just a single go card you can travel within an extensive network around Brisbane by bus, rail or the CityCat. Buses in Brisbane run on reliable schedules and you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in peak hour traffic as many bus services run on bus lanes and 3 major busway networks. Queensland Rail can also take you to many regional places around Queensland – perfect for a weekend getaway. The Brisbane River runs along many parts of the city including the central business district and the CityCat is an excellent way to explore the City by day or by night. One of my favourite things to do in Brisbane is to take a leisure walk along the Riverwalk and catch the CityCat while returning.
Public transport fees are quite affordable for full-time students and pensioners as they get 50% discount on fares. Adults pay full-priced fares but you can get 50% discount after 8 paid journeys within the same week.
Name 1 must-do thing in Brisbane and tell me why.
South Bank is definitely a place you have to visit! There are so many activities suitable for all ages, all day and all night, like a taking a dip at Streets Beach — Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach — or the surrounding pools; having a barbecue or picnic in the Parklands; taking a stroll along The Arbour which has a 1-km installation of 406 curling, galvanised steel posts, which are each clad in purple bougainvillea flowers; gazing the wonderful architectures such as the Nepal Peace Pagoda — the only international exhibit remaining in Brisbane when it hosted the World Expo in 1988; heading to the Epicurious Garden in the Parklands to learn about local fresh produce and you can even collect free produce from the garden’s harvest cart; spending a day at the Cultural Centre which houses the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, The State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Maritime Museum; taking a ride up the Brisbane Wheel to take a glimpse of the beautiful city; indulge yourself in the restaurants and cafes along Grey Street and Little Stanley Street.
Name 2 of your favourite neighbourhoods in Brisbane and things you can do there.
New Farm is the definition of the perfect outdoor lifestyle with tree-lined streets and New Park located in the heart of New Farm — a popular picnic spot amongst Brisbanites. It has many unique shops and cafes you can hang around and it houses a few of my favourite brunch places in Brisbane!
Nestled on the beautiful banks of Brisbane River (beside New Farm Park) Brisbane Powerhouse — the former power station — has become a distinct landmark, both as a stunning industrial creation and as a hub for everything creative. The creative spaces run shows and functions on a daily basis and serve as the hub for the annual Brisbane Comedy Festival and Brisbane Festival. I absolutely love going to fresh markets and the Jan Powers Farmers Markets is a must-do on Saturdays! New Farm also houses mostly Queenslander-style homes — a distinct vernacular type of architecture found in Queensland — which many of them are heritage-listed.
West End has a quirky characteristic described by Brisbanites with its fusion of cultures and mix of alternative and vintage. Hungry for organic fresh produce, drinks or music? West End is the place to be. Any weekend in West End should begin with a shop around the Davies Park Markets. Locals come by for breakfast, to buy produce for the week and sip coffee while sitting under trees listening to live music by the river. West End is also another popular spot to brunch your heart out with Brisbane’s old favourites The Gunshop Cafe, and newcomers Morning After, Billykart and Miss Bliss Wholefoods Kitchen. Go on a cocktail crawl or grab a brew from West End’s two microbreweries, The Catchment Brewing Co or Brisbane Brewing Co, both located on Boundary St. A strong part of West End’s migrant history falls to the Greeks. Hop by any of the Greek restaurants for a feast or visit the Paniyiri Greek Festival at Musgrave Park happening every May with a weekend of Greek food, dancing and many more.
Name 3 restaurants/cafes that you frequent.
There are so many it’s hard for me to choose just 3!
Little Loco, New Farm
Favourite item on the menu: Eggs and Waffle
Average cost: A$45 for two people (approx.)
Hunter & Scout, Graceville
Favourite item on the menu: Crispy Pork Belly with smoked eggplant, pickled pear, watercress &
Average cost: A$60 for two people (approx.)
Udonya Tokoton, Sunnybank Plaza
Favourite item on the menu: Mini Ontama Rice Bowl
Average cost: A$25 for two people (approx.)
Name 1 of your favourite bar in Brisbane.
I haven’t frequent a lot of bars in Brisbane but I discovered a new-found love for G&T recently. Covent Garden in West End is my current favourite. It boasts a comprehensive craft gin menu as well as wines and many creative cocktails and bar food. You’d definitely feel like you’ve entered a tropical oasis when you are greeted by a high, stained glass ceiling as you walk in and a lush greenery in the courtyard.
Where can you get the cheapest and best alcohol in Brisbane?
Well, there are many ways that alcohol can be brewed/distilled/made into several distinct forms at several price points. Australia is blessed by many wine makers, distilleries and breweries hence you can get quality alcohol fairly easily. I love a good quality glass of wine but they may not come in cheap price points. Occasionally, I do like a chilled bottle of James Squire One-Fifty Lashes Pale Ale that you can get from any bottleshop.
Tell me 3 local specialities that you must get in major supermarkets in Brisbane.
Aside from Australia’s icon, Tim Tams and Vegemite, there are a few Queenslander produce you can find in major supermarket chains. Queensland boasts a wide variety of seafood and ideally you should source seafoods in fresh seafood markets but you can also source good quality Queensland prawns, fresh barramundi, (Moreton Bay bugs and mud crabs when they are in season) in major supermarket chains. Kensington Pride mangoes, aka Bowen Mangoes hail from Bowen, Queensland and can be found everywhere in supermarkets and local fruit markets when in season (September to February). Queensland is also the home of Bundaberg Rum, a sweet rum brewed with local sugar cane grown in the Bundaberg region. Due to the liquor law in Queensland, alcohol are not sold in supermarkets and can only be purchased from licensed liquor stores.
Where do you normally shop for clothes?
I am not a bold fashionista and always feel most comfortable in basics and jeans! My favourite go-tos for affordable everyday fashion would be Cotton On and H&M! I also love “window shopping” at the handmade clothing with colourful, vintage prints by Brisbane’s local designer brand, Alice Nightingale.
Where do you normally shop for food?
While supermarket chains are everywhere in the City, I love to go to fresh food markets on the weekend to shop for fresh, local produce. You’ll always find a little surprise in these farmer’s markets! My top 3 go-to markets in Brisbane are:
Davies’ Park Markets (Saturdays,
Milton Markets (Sundays,
New Farm Markets (Saturdays,
When it is sunny, what do you do/where do you go?
Always out and about! Brunching, taking a stroll along the Brisbane River, soaking up the sun at the park etc.Sometimes I like to bring a book with me and go to the State Library of
Queensland. The Red Room is always my favourite cosy place to read and just watch the hustling and bustling of the CBD skyline and the Riverside Expressway, rain or shine.
When it is rainy, what do you do/where do you go?
I’m more of a staying-in person when the weather gets gloomy. Summer rains in Brisbane can bring severe hail and thunder storms so it’s best to stay indoors! If I have no agenda or nothing important on a wet day, I’d stay in with a hot cup of tea, catching up on Netflix or do some cooking.
Let’s say you are taking a small over a long-weekend or a week, where would you go and what would you do?
With Brisbane’s close proximities to the Sunshine Coast up north and the Gold Coast down south, it is Brisbanite’s favourite getaway places for the weekend or the week. I love going up north to the Sunny Coast and my favourite place would be Noosa. The beaches you can soak up the sun at, the national parks and hinterlands you can hike up to…
What souvenir would you buy, from Brisbane, for your friends/family?
Bee One Third Neighbourhood Honey! Natural honey extracted from BOT’s hives all over Brisbane which now includes more than 110 rooftop hives across the South East corner of Queensland and down into the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. Products include neighbourhood honey, bee pollen and fresh honeycomb. It’s not just the products are one of its kind but the business is ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly – which makes them thrive so well.
Locally The Lucas’ Papaw Ointment is also a popular gift for friends and family. The multipurpose antibacterial and antimicrobial topical ointment — made with fermented Queensland-grown papaws — can be used for minor burns, scalds, nappy rash, temporary relief for eczema.
What is one habit you have picked up while living in Brisbane?
Wearing thongs and be storms-ready in the summer months! Aussies are known for wearing thongs (flip flops) at any time of the year and especially Brisbanites who don’t wrap up to brace the winter months (we still get warm days during the winter months which is good!). I’ve also learnt to always bring an umbrella with me during the summer days because it may be a hot, humid summer day when I head out in the morning and the next minute in the evening tropical thunderstorms bring on a big wet due to the build up of heat and humidity.
What is the biggest culture shock that you have seen in Brisbane?
I suppose seeing friendly people around counts as a positive culture shock? I am very amazed at how friendly Australians are! Take a walk anywhere and you’d always find people giving you a nod/smile or a simple “hello”. It is not very common in my hometown and I had a reverse culture shock when I greeted a stranger walking from the opposite direction and I unknowingly scared her off!
If not Brisbane, where then?
Amsterdam — the city of canals and tulip fields! I love living close to waters and wouldn’t mind living in a city blooming with my favourite flower!
What advice would you give to someone who is planning to move to Brisbane?
Many might argue Brisbane is a dull place to live in compared to many major cities in Australia but I beg to differ. If you have read this article up to this point, you’ll know this place has so much to offer!
What is your worst experience/ memory in Brisbane?
Definitely the ibises — colloquially known as the bin chicken! These thieves are known for not shying away from the crowd and snatching your food IN. YO. FACE. I have had my hot chips snatched away on 2 separate occasions. Literally just after I sat down on a grassy area and about to take a bite. How rude!
What is your best experience/memory in Brisbane?
My favourite time of the year would always be the Brisbane Riverfire which occurs on the last
Saturday of September. Brisbane’s night sky is lit up with tonnes of fireworks set from multiple rooftops, bridges and river platforms to mark the end of the annual Brisbane Festival. My first Brisbane Riverfire experience was back in September 2015 at the Wilson’s Outlook overlooking the Story Bridge and the CBD skyscrapers. Brisbane Riverfire happens to always fall on my birthday week and I have since made it a tradition to watch it on the scene every year. Definitely a birthday with a bang!
Anything that you would like to add?
JUST. COME. HERE. AREADY.