Sunday, September 15, 2013

Melbourne : My point of view

This is a guest post from my best friend and constant travel buddy Desiree Lee. She is professionally a banker. She travels whenever she has the time. She had been to U.S.A where her grandmother lives, India, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. An island buff, sun worshiper and avid scuba diver, her other pastimes is reading books by Agatha Christie and Terry Pratchett to name a few.

In the past year, I've been on 2 trips with Angie . The first was to Australia. When it ended, I flew back to KL, and she went on to her working holiday to NZ. The second trip to Perhentian Island was just
when she got back from NZ. I mean, the girl didn't leave the airport before flying off to another destination - how awesome is that?!

Australia is a great country with lots to see (we only went to Sydney and Melbourne). but I'm going to write about the things that happened just as much as the places we went. 

1. Getting kicked out of a club (Spice Market, Melbourne)

It was late, and our friend fell asleep (maybe the bouncers thought she was drunk, or maybe they felt it killed the mood of the place). Whatever, the reason, it happened just as Angie was getting ready to dance on the podium. And there was the added bonus of being escorted out by the bouncers.

2. Renting a car 
We rented a car from an agency really near the backpacker's place we were staying at, and the guy who passed us the car keys (who was flying to Malaysia the next day) was super friendly. After
collecting the keys, we went to Queen Victoria's Market to get stuff for our road trip and he came running after us to show us where to go and what stuff was good there. Then after we left, we kept finding little notes hidden all over the car. Just random stuff, nothing sleazy, but it was
funny. Btw, the car was a really cute pink Nissan Micra. 

3. Philip Island

Of all the animals I wanted to see in Australia, these were last on my list. I have to say, though, the little fellows are really cute. They wait till the sun is setting to come in from sea, and they do it in groups. Then they hurry across the beach (also in groups) to their burrows a bit further inland. I've now got a new expression. Instead of saying someone is like a sheep for following the crowd, I say they're a penguin. Also, it turns out that in the penguin word, the males are responsible for making and keeping the burrow. When it's mating season, the female walks in to inspect the burrow and if she's not happy, she just walks right back out. (We upgraded our tickets so that we had front row seats and a guide giving us all these interesting bits of information about penguins as they were coming in). I got up around 5am the next morning, not having slept well because someone in
our dorm snored really loudly. Started talking to another early riser and learned that the pies in Melbourne are nothing compared to the ones sold at the railway stations in Perth. After a while, I started complaining about the loud snorer. Went back to my room to pack, and to my horror realized that early riser = loud snorer. 

4. Puffing Billy 
This is a train ride I really wanted to take! It's an old steam train that goes through the beautiful Dandenongs and you get some really fantastic views. Volunteers from the Puffing Billy Preservation Society are conductors, ticket collectors, guards, and perform a whole lot of other duties around the station. For part of our ride, a man drove ahead of the train and waited at several points to wave to someone inside the train. 

5. Great Ocean Road 
There are wild koala bears on the road heading towards the Cape Otway Lighthouse. One accommodating bear was on a branch low enough that people could take pictures with it. Right until the point it grabbed a woman's hair. Needless to say, no one went close after that. Those claws looked sharp! 
Further along, we walked down the Gibson Steps - 86 steep steps down to the beach, but it was worth it to look back at the cliff line  Not many people went down so it was also nice to be away from the crowd for a bit.
The Grotto is beautiful. The reflection of the limestone on the water looks like a somewhat eerie painting. For some reason, I felt completely calm there.

6. The Grampians

I am so glad we extended the Great Ocean Road drive to the Grampians. We stayed at Tim's Place in Halls Gap, and we got a room to the 3 of us. In the mornings, I would wake up early and sit outside on the back porch alone and just enjoy the stillness, just me and my coffee. In the evenings, kangaroos would come really close to the backpacker's place. In the day, we walked a couple of trails. Don't remember the first trail, but the second was the MacKenzie Falls Trail. It's another steep walk down the stairs, but the falls are amazing. The sprays of water made a rainbow right at the waterfall, and you can walk across the gushing river at the base to the other side. I must have spent a good hour just staring at the falls. Admittedly it was partly because I dreaded the walk back up.

The grotto
7. The trip back to Melbourne CBD

Definitely has the straightest roads I have ever been on.It's really hard to keep to the speed limit when the roads are so straight for so long. Around this time is when I found out how much of a city person Angie is. Driving though one of the small towns along the way, she made the comment that if she ever stayed there, she would install a disco ball in her house and invite the neighbours over every weekend.

8. Melbourne CBD 
One of the things I'd read about Melbourne is that there is a great cafe culture. There are lots of quirky little coffee places with obscure signage. We were literally in front of Brother Baba Budan and didn't realize it until we saw people walking out of a shop. Another morning, I took a walk to Seven Seeds and found it hidden in a warehouse area.

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