Good Bye, Melbourne!

9th October 2008, Thursday

I guess you guys must have been bored shitless with the stories in Melbourne-Sydney. Haha! Anyway, to spare you guys from my long windedness, I am going to keep this final post on Melbourne short and sweet – and filled with pictures!

We spent the Thursday morning having some delicious breakfast at Gingerlee. It serves quite good tuna linguini and mushroom foccacia.

After the long and chatty breakfast, we made our way to Queen Victoria’s Market to shop for some last minute souvenirs, nougats and chocolates. Then, we proceed to St Kilda’s Beach for a look around.

We took the tram to St Kilda’s. The wind was quite strong and it was a little cold despite the glaring sun.

It’s good to come over here to this quiet place for a cup of coffee and wile the day away.

We spent the late evening back in Chinatown to buy some groceries for Curly and Al as they have been really nice to us by cooking for us almost every day while we were there.

So on the last night, we meet up with the rest of the gang in Melbourne and had dinner at Baba’s. It was a new outlet along Lygon Street. However, the portions served were too small so we left the restaurant with half filled stomachs. We made our way to Brunetti’s for some cakes and coffee and chatted the night away.

10th October 2008, Friday

The next morning, we went to have another big breakfast at Poached and it was time to bid good bye to our lovely host – Curly and Al.

Thanks to Curly for letting us sleep in the room while he took the sofa bed in the living room. Thank you for clearing your closet to let us have space to store our clothes. Thank you for letting me use your lotion and moisturizers! Thank you for lending me your socks! Thank you for doing my laundry! Thank you for cooking for me! Thank you for showing me around! Thank you for buying us tram tickets! Thank you for lending us some warm clothings! Thank God I could fit in one! Lol!

Thanks to Al for the jokes he cracked and number of tips he gave me to take better pictures. Thank you for letting us eat your biscuits! Thank you for making us coffee and cooking us maggi mee for supper! Thank you for the delicious caramel chocolates!

We bid Curly, Al and Ryne good bye with a heavy heart and were glad that we enjoy ourselves pretty much in Melbourne and it was a totally “unforgettable” trip for many years to come.

We reached Singapore and then, proceeded to meet up with some old friends for a day or two till we returned to Kuala Lumpur.

That’s about it for my trip to Melbourne-Sydney-Singapore. Hope you guys are not bored to death! Will resume with “normal” blogging in due course.

Dionysus Would Approve This!

8th October 2008, Wednesday

For the last package with AAT, we chose Yarra Valley wineries and Puffing Billy. I am not a wine connoisseur, I just drink wine like water. LOL!!! Ahem! Well, I just wanted to go there to see grapes on vineyards and take snapshots of the breathtaking view.

We got on the road along the Dandenong ranges and drove through Ferntree Gully. It was a feast of lush greens of forest for the eyes! There are many white trees called mountain ash tree which are the tallest broadleaf trees in the world! It is one of the many species of eucalyptus trees in Australia.

We made a stop at one of the spots along the Ferntree Gully to feed some crimson rosella birds and parrots while having breakfast of some Lamington Cakes and vegemite with biscuits and washed it all down with Billy Tea. The birds reminded me of the bird park in KL where I went sometime in September for some photo treat.

After the short break for breakfast, we made our way to the Puffing Billy. It was Australia oldest steam train from Belgrave to Gembrook, cutting through the beautiful Dandenong Ranges. You would never believe that there are actually 600 volunteers working in this train station for free! Puffing Billy is open every day except Christmas and the service runs up to 6x a day.

Here’s a tip – I think sitting on the right side would have better views. You get to see the train turn to the right in front of you and some people along the way and scenic lush forest. On the left side, you get to see the hills and trees and not much of the train.

When we got down the train at Menzie’s Creek, there were hordes of people hording the train to take pictures. Some silly one put their hands on the engine and got scalded. Imagine how stupid can one be? No common sense one??? It’s blowing steam and this woman nicely put her hand on the train. I didn’t take pics of myself as I don’t want to join the maddening crowd.

After the train ride, we went to the Ferguson’s winery for lunch. Here, you can either have the spit roast beef on prepaid meals or you can opt for ala carte. We had the gnocchi. I don’t know what is it! Haha! It’s something like hakka dim sum if you ask me. Instead of using minced pork, this comes with a little bit of cheese and olives. But it was sourish in taste and quite unique.

After lunch, I quickly went out to take some pictures. I was rather disappointed that there was no grapes yet! It’s early spring and usually, the grapes would grow in the summer – all green and eventually turn red in autumn. So I guess if you would like to take really nice pictures of the beautiful amber colored vineyard in full splendor, try going there from January to March.

We took some photos of the place before moving on to the next winery. Rockford’s winery. We made a fool out of ourselves. People don’t gobble up the drinks when they go for wine tasting. They would sip a little, let it roll back and forth their mouth palate and then spit it out. Being Asian (and also some of the Mat Sallehs) and not wanting to waste one bit, we swallowed everything till the last droplet. Lol!

The last winery we visited is the Domaine Chandon where you get the world’s awesome sparkling champagne – Moët et Chandon.

Here, we were guided on a tour around the factory to learn how the wonderful sparkling wine is being made. It’s a rather tedious process and even the quality of the oak barrels used to store the wine has significant impact on the taste and quality of the wine! Christopher, the person in charge to take us around emphasize that  Moët is pronounced as Mo-at.. and not Mo-ay… and he looked somewhat annoyed when people pronounced it as Mo-ay.

We were served with a full glass of champagne of our choice (if not mistaken, I think we had the sparkling Blanc de noirs) – sweet or dry with a cheese platter for free! Awesome! It tastes heavenly! No wonder celebrities ordered them in contennas when they have their weddings.

We could have second glass at AUD9 per glass but somehow we couldn’t because the bus is arriving anytime.

Since we were in a hurry, I drunk everything in less than 10 minutes and I was rather tipsy when I was trying to take pictures of the beautiful poppies in the garden!

Luckily, it was the last winery to visit so I could catch some sleep before reaching the city… or else, I guess someone has to cart me home. Haha!

Happy Feet

7th October 2008, Tuesday

Since we had a long day the day before, we started the following day a little later. Firstly, we visited the Melbourne Museum. If you are a student – regardless where you study or where you are from, you get to enter the Museum for free. Else, you would have to pay AUD6 per entrance and the ticket is good for the entire day. You can always walk in and out of the museum. Dan and Ryne got lucky that they entered for free. I don’t know how they use their charms but it seems to work! I should have used my driving license since it’s in Malay! They won’t know it’s a student card anyway!

I wish I could spend more time in the museum because there are many things to see. A gigantic skeleton of whale greet you at the entrance, there’s a story on how this whale landed on the Australian shore and subsequently died and being placed in the museum, aborigines history, human body history (a lot, a lot of naked people!), from dead animals to live animals, history of designs and architectures, science, psychology etc. too bad the dinosaur section is closed for upgrade while we were there. You can take pictures here except the human body and aboriginal sections.

We walked about town before hopping onto the AAT Kings bus again. We were glad that the tour guide for the day is the wise joker himself – Collin.

We prayed for good weather throughout the day. However, again it drizzled there and then. Bummer!

We made a stop at Warook Cattle Farm to see some Australian animals. It was a small farm with wombats (I didn’t know they could be bigger than a cat!), kangaroos, sheep, birds, ducks, chicken, swans etc. I went to feed some kangaroos and took pictures.

We had our Devonshire tea and some delicious scones. They are pretty huge! Just enough for morning breakfast to last right through lunch.

We then, stopped by the Koala Conservation Centre somewhere along the way to Penguin Island. This place.. there was nothing much to shout about. As usual, eventhough they  adopted the concept of having koalas in the “wild”, it somewhat look like a “safari” to me, with more trees.

The way to the Philip Island is graced with yet and again picturesque landscapes. I have a favorite spot along the way to Phillip Island. Cape Woolamai. It has spectacularly beautiful and pristine clean beach. The sand at Cape Woolamai is soft and white. Cape Woolamai is a home for surfers during summer. The water is really blue and cold. Collin recalled vividly of his youthful days spending his entire summer away on this beach. You could see the sparkle in his eyes when he told his stories. I was envious that he could get this place all to himself every summer with his surfer friends.

We stopped by Cowes to have early dinner before we head for Penguin Islands. There was a port here. Sometimes, you get to see some seals hanging around the dock. When we were there, again, there was a gale and it lasted throughout the entire journey.

We stopped by the Noobies for some photos. Unfortunately, there was rain and gale as well. There was one nerdy Korean girl who traveled with us. She got down from the bus and stood in the rain to take picture of herself. We laughed at her and were impressed by her determination to get pictures at every single stop.

No one was supposed to take pictures of the penguins. Well, it’s like paparazzi chasing after some celebrities. Do you like people to shove their cameras on your face when you are walking on the street? No, right?

However, there were still some idiots having their cameras pointing at the penguins as they emerged from the sea. Even though, they don’t use flash, but by taking out the camera, it would have domino effect on everyone else. Others will follow suit when you take out your camera. So, for Christ’s sake, if you like penguins SO MUCH, you can get their pics on postcards or even have your pictures photoshop standing and patting the penguins at the local kiosk set up there.

It was quite silly actually, to wait for the penguins in the rain! The penguins would arrive to the shore from their daily fishing activity to their little burrows on Summerland. I find this place is overly commercialized. If you want to get good look at the penguins, you need to pay extra to go to one special platform where you could see bigger groups of penguins coming out from the sea, lining up and marching to their respective burrows. It was quite an experience though.

After freezing our asses off standing in the rain – I felt numbness on my fingers due to the cold, I couldn’t wait to get on the bus for some warm comfort. Seriously, it was freaking cold that night due to gale and drizzle! I was informed that, we can actually see penguins at St Kilda’s Beach for free!

The night ended with a movie “Happy Feet” on the journey from Penguin Island right to the city.

God, the Perfect Landscaper

6th November 2008, Monday

Bell’s Beach before it started to pour

We started the day early to get to the Great Ocean Road with AAT Kings. The driver cum tour guide is one jolly good fellow named Collin. He is very informative and good at cracking jokes every now and then to keep us interested. Two thumbs up for his service.

Bell’s Beach

It wasn’t a really sunny day when we left Melbourne for the Great Ocean Road. I guess one have to properly check the weather before planning to go to Great Ocean Road. Imagine the breathtaking views you could take and enjoy if it’s sunny! Too bad, it was drizzling all the time while we were on the Great Ocean Road. Too much rain for my liking.

Eucalyptus tress along the road

Along the way, we passed by the eucalyptus trees forest to spot some sleepy koalas in the wild. Koala is always sleeping because of its low calorie diet on the eucalyptus leaves. Out of the 700+ over species of eucalyptus trees, apparently koalas only eat 22+ of them! Koalas could sleep up to 20 hours a day! Collin joked that, if he were to reincarnate, he wish to be a koala in his next life.

I think I didn’t want to bore you guys the details of the trip and let some pictures do the talking.

The Twelve Apostles

There was a gale on the day that we arrived at the Twelve Apostles! Imagine a fat buffalo like me had to struggle to walk due to the strong winds, what more a skinny ass like ML! I am not surprised that she complained about the coldness all throughout the trip to Great Ocean Road, amongst other days. Lol!

Apollo Bay

I have many, many favorite spots along the Great Ocean Road. Almost every spot carved a memory in my mind. The entire journey to the Great Ocean Road was decorated with breathtaking views of the ocean, cliffs, greens, forests, rivers and beaches. There are different shades of flowers aligning the sides of the roads, as if they were planted on purpose to welcome us to the Great Ocean Road.

Loch Ard Gorge

They say, life is not defined by how many breaths you take, but moments that take your breath away.. I think I probably had many, many moments where my breath was literally taken away in this trip. I was awe struck by the beauty of nature along Great Ocean Road. I couldn’t help but think God is such a perfect landscaper.

Woman feeding seagulls at Port Campbell

On the way back, we feasted our eyes on the golden field of canolas. Imagine golden yellow bedded fields along the vast green plains, peppered with sheep grazing lazily at the grasses surrounding the area. It was  awesomely picturesque. Too bad we didn’t stop to get a picture of it.

If you plan to go to Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is something not to be missed. If I were to go back to Melbourne again, I hope to drive instead and go on for at least five days to thoroughly enjoy the scenic and beautiful scenery! This is the place where you could feel as if the worries in this world had vanquished and you would wish and wish and wish the day spent here would not end! And I think one should take the helicopter ride (AUD60 to AUD90) to check out this place. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

Flea Market at Camberwell

5th October 2008, Sunday

Curly, being a fan of antiques, loves the flea market in Camberwell. Sometimes, if you are lucky you would get pretty good deals here. They sell just anything here, from small ear rings to things as big as sofa or arm chair! To get to Camberwell, you need to take a train ride from Flinder’s. If not mistaken, the flea market is only open on Sundays and till 12 pm only. I didn’t get anything but Curly and ML got themselves really nice brooches.

We walked about here for an hour before going to Sofia’s for an Italian brunch. We ordered risotto, garden salad (HUGE portion!) and pizza. Try ordering pizza without anchovies. They are very, very salty! Too salty for our taste! We ta pao-ed back some leftovers as all portions are too huge by Asian standard!

We went to Federation Square after that to check out some tour packages since we decided not to drive. We were greeted by a huge crowd, all looking upwards to this man who juggled torches of fire while balancing on a tight rope, held by some members of the crowd. In Federation Square, there were many talented people coming up with tricks to entertain the ever engaging crowd for a small token of appreciation. They usually would be welcomed with a warm round of applause from the cheerful and laid back crowd.

At the travel advisory center, situated at the lower ground of Federation Square, we waited quite awhile to get our bookings, not because there were many people at the counter waiting, but the volunteers were overly patient, answering one question after another! Perhaps you can try to take a number first before deciding what tour packages to take!

We decided to go with AAT Kings to Great Ocean Road, Penguin Islands, Puffing Billy, Cattle Farm and Yarra Valley and Wineries. We paid only AUD314 for the entire 3 days package. All packages come with a light breakfast of scones and coffee and you get a free half day city tour too. If you want to include lunch, you need to pay the difference of probably AUD30 per day.

We hop off the tourist shuttle bus at Alexandra Gardens to check out the statues and Shrine of Remembrance. It was a day when there was daylight saving, so we turned out clock one hour ahead. At 6 pm, the sunlight was still as bright as it is in the morning and yet, the air is still cold and nice. I love it.

So, we walked about Alexandra Garden to watch people jogging by, took pictures of blooms of springs, birds and lovers. You can see a lot of people lying on the grass to sun bathe. It was indeed a splendid day to walk about Melbourne!

We ended the day with a bowl of delicious beef pho in Mekong along Swanston Street. This shop is quite well known among the locals and tourists alike. Pictures of Hong Kong stars were plastered everywhere, having their meals here – Jackie Chan, Samo Hung, just to name a few. The beef pho is good though but not something that I would miss. For AUD9.80 per bowl, probably cheap by Australian standard. To me, it’s a little too pricey. I still crave for the stir fried lemongrass beef in Bong Sen, KLCC!