Literally had no time to spare once I landed back in Singapore from Japan. It was three days to finish the laundry, get necessities, enjoy a Secret Santa staycation with a couple of uni mates, and repack for a flight on new year’s day.
Family trips are a rare find. For me at least. Probably because I’m hardly ever available for them when they’re planned. So, when my aunt said we were heading to Tasmania to visit my brother, it was a huge resounding yes. Reasons being, Australia is one of the places on my travel bucket list, and because I hadn’t seen my brother in 3 years since he got hitched.
Melbourne was a stop-over before Tasmania, and we spent a total of 4 days there. Having traveled solo for quite awhile, it was a queer feeling having almost no responsibility at all. No having to book flight tickets or paying for Visas, or insurance, lodging, itinerary.
Okay, I had to plan part of the itinerary but it felt good having control over something.
I traveled via Qantas throughout the entire trip, and let’s just say, I didn’t have a very pleasant flight. Aside from the turbulence, I was probably not used to the casual nature of the stewards and stewardess’ on board. I did find that I had a never ending flow of food and snacks though…
We arrived in Melbourne at around 6am, and everything was shut of course. I was expecting the weather to be thoroughly hot (and a huge change from the winter that I was already accustomed to), yet I could say mornings in Melbourne were just as cold. The afternoons are a whole different story.
We grabbed a station wagon cab to fit all our baggage in, and it took us to the hotel (The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure) right smack in the CBD area. We couldn’t check in that early, but we managed to get a key pass to explore a little. My aunt and I left my cousin at the pool to laze, while we explored the surroundings.
The first thing I saw? Chinatown. It’s right along the street where The Swanston’s located.
Reminded me of the Chinatown in Yokohama.
Nothing was open, but there were rows of Asian food stalls and restaurants. Then we found Target, which we ventured into to explore. When traveling with family, shopping is a priority.
Finally exited after a tour around Target, and we walked aimlessly. Despite being such a modern city, Melbourne’s architecture is amazing to photograph. Landscaping is fantastic there with flowers and trees just lining the street and everything so relaxed and casual. In the mornings at least.
Walking is quite therapeutic in Melbourne, especially since you’ll probably not get lost. Melbourne is just a huge, well thought out grid.
You’re really walking around in a square, not circles. Get it?
We made it back to The Swanston in time to check in, collect our bags, freshen up (we fell asleep), and then out again to lunch. We decided on a nice Vietnamese place nearby (Mama Buoi's: Melbourne GPO, G25, Postal Lane), situated in the nook of the Melbourne Post Office.
Beef slices, meatballs and tripe
Mushroom spring rolls
Can’t go wrong with beef pho! They had fantastic Vietnamese iced coffee as well!
After a hearty lunch, we walked over to the State Library of Victoria; a recommendation I had from my best friend, and a fellow writer of mine (Visit his travels here: http://whenmycameraspeaks.wordpress.com) who recently returned from a trip through Melbourne.
We walked through the Melbourne Central complex to get to the library. It’s a long mall, full of endless shopping entities, and even a Kitkat “Create your own” place.
Got myself a Tim Tam cone!
Had no idea what it was supposed to taste like; like chocolate? I guess?
The library is located right next to RMIT University, and you can’t miss it. There is so much going on right on the front lawn – people scattered in groups immersed in endless conversation, even “political” student movements, campus tours. It was bustling with activity. The only pain was having to avoid the endless bounty of birds…
The building’s interior was just as majestic as one would imagine a colonial library to look. Think Hogwarts. Okay, maybe not that far-fetched.
After, we decided to jump on the Free Tram (the Circle Tram, 35) through to Carlton Gardens which was nearby. Melbourne has a pretty easy-going transport system; the trams within the green free tram zone basically don’t require you to get a pass for it. So, yay free rides! You could walk if you were feeling feisty, but definitely in comfortable shoes.
If you’re intending to walk through Melbourne, water bottles, sunscreen (face and body) and insect repellent (for those annoyed by flies) is highly recommended. The sun is ridiculously unforgiving down under, despite there not being an ounce of humidity.
The relaxed atmosphere carries through the gardens with couples and families just lazing about under the boughs of large trees watching the clouds go buy. Just, summer holiday shenanigans.
After spending a contented amount of time photographing an entire “kampung” of ducks just lazing by the side of a pond, we walked toward the Royal Exhibition Building. There were three separate weddings happening; and a wedding shoot. I guess that’s what landmarks are for?
The museum also has a pseudo rainforest with animals and critters just walking around everywhere. I saw a skink just lazing in the sun; no barriers, no care in the world.
There was a deep sea exhibition (with real animals in tanks), and a massive insect enclosure (gross?!?!). I saw all sorts of weird creepy crawlies and then regretted walking into it pretending it wouldn’t affect me. It did.
Dinosaur exhibits and a huge range of information for anyone just fill up the entire space. Plus it’s all free. Unless of course you were planning on visiting a specific exhibition. Do your research!
We were starved by then, so we decided to grab an early dinner at Grill’d in QV (QV, level 2, QV Swanston St, Melbourne VIC). We were too lazy to grab a ride with the free tram, so we walked all the way from the Melbourne Museum to QV.
Zucchini fries, sweet potato fries and regular fries.
Let me just say. I am no vegan, not even close. I love my meat burgers.
But oh, my, goodness were these vege burgers so good.
Juicy, mouthwatering (maybe cause mine was a mushroom and they’re all juice) portobello mushroom sandwiched in between two toasted buns. The fries? Don’t get me started on those and the sauces.
After being stuffed full of food, we got a couple of groceries from Woolsworth for breakfast and snacking on the go, and we plonked on our hotel beds and dozed off. All that flying and walking drained us.
Melbourne in the early mornings makes for a fantastic workout let me tell you. And for even better photo opportunities.
All that adventure, and it’s only day one.