photo credit: Steve Doig


Morning already? What time is it?

Woke up from the last dream I still had memory of, vaguely I must say. My mind was already awake but my eyes were still trying to put up a fight and beg to differ. So I reluctantly kept them shut, but I was secretly delighted to comply, and let the birds outside the window chirp away. Crows. Those were crows to be exact and it was more like screaming than chirping actually – well, in my opinion anyway.

Ugh. I guess it’s munching time.

While I was rubbing my rumbling stomach, trying to calm down the roaring beast in there, a familiar warmness came to visit. I could even see the rays of morning sunshine through my closed eyes, could feel the gentle breeze sneaking in through the crack of the window I left open the night before, brushing through my hair even though I was still lazily lying in bed like a sloth while I contemplated what to have for breakfast. I had a hunch it was not one of those days you would want to stay at home and eat a bowl of cereal in front of the television. It was a no-brainer.

I think not many people would have the willpower to fight against the temptation of strolling on South Terrace towards the town centre, immersed in the laidback, chilled vibe while appreciating the tropical-like beauty composed of sapphire blue sky, Indian Ocean, palm trees, colourful murals and early beach goers. Oh yeah, the murals. It was impossible to just walk past them without letting your attention get stolen away and lose yourself in the parallel universe they created. I would be damned if I did not come out of my house and enjoy myself in all of these.

Hmm. Which cafe should I visit today?

It was often kind of a trouble to me, a sweet kind though. With so many awesome cafes scattered around the city, contributing the nice, freshly-brewed coffee aroma to the air, complemented by the subtle smell of saltiness from the ocean. I was spoiled with all the options, maybe even a bit anxious at some point, not to mention there was a Cappuccino Strip in town, packed with tourists. I often found myself changing direction in the crowd, walking back and forth between alleys and streets, unable to decide which cafe I should go to that morning.

I had actually tried to narrow down my choice to few places, but I still could not make up my mind. It was that difficult. I often said to people I knew, sometimes strangers I just met minutes ago, the cafe scene here would definitely give the popular cafes in Melbourne a run for their money. Not joking. Sounds crazy, but sometimes I would even have to look for recommendations on the internet from the local community to help me decide which new cafe I should try the next day.

Yes, this charismatic seaside port city didn’t just charm me with its breathtaking beauty and fascinating history. It was also the strong and unique community bond which I seldom found elsewhere. As a traveller or new resident, trying to find someone “in the know” to ask for a little tip or heads up about living in your new home-away-from-home is generally on the top of the list. Local knowledge, as people say.

It was not difficult to find the inside information in this community and I was constantly amazed by how supportive and caring everyone was. Positivity, love and respect were often encouraged. I once made a statement about how I felt living in this city and shared it with a few newcomers. It was “Nobody is a stranger, we are all brothers and sisters here.” and I genuinely meant my every word, every syllable.

Ah … what a view. This is life, my friend.

I was not talking to anyone actually, but with the paradisiacal sunset in front of you when sitting on top of Monument Hill, or an apartment, or, for me sometimes, on a beach, you just could not help yourself making an exclamation and wanting to share it with your friends and family, even if you are alone. I looked around and watched people chatting and laughing, fully immersing themselves in the joyfulness of friend and family’s company.

I could feel the vibrant heartbeats of this city. They were full of life and spellbinding. Hypnotic even. Rumour said if your heart beats in sync with it, then you would be captured and have no desire to leave. Personally, I called it “Fremantle syndrome”.

Yes, that’s right. It’s Fremantle.

Historical but unorthodox. Serious but playful and whimsical. Never afraid to step ahead and lead the way as it’s a natural pioneer. You can also call it Freo, if you know it well enough and have fallen in love with it. Just like I did. For me, it was more like a love-at-first-sight though.

When I got off my bus and laid my eyes on the city the very first time, a warm, enchanting voice just raised in my head and cast a spell on me. So I became a hostage of this city. Forever.

Welcome home.


Daniel Liao

Wei-Hao, who also goes by the name of Daniel, is a man of contradictions. An outgoing introvert, a grounded dreamer, a harmony-seeking rebel, and a home-loving traveller. Life traveller is his self-proclaimed unofficial occupation which makes him consistently look for answers, but the more he looks, the more he realises there is no such thing as answers, just perspectives. Ah ha ... so that's why he's always interested in people's stories. Mystery solved.