So I went back yet again this year to Melbourne for a vacation and yet again had the time of my life (apart from a couple of food poisoning attacks which I shall spare you all the gory details of).
I only titled this post “Australia 2014” and not “Melbourne 2014” because I spent a considerable amount of time in New South Wales and out on the Great Ocean Road. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about Australia and the rustic charms of her countrysides and spirited allure of her cities that make me feel more at home than I am in my own bedroom.
I found myself incurably attached to my camera with its black lacey strap wrung around my wrist and my finger perched on the shutter release–just in case something interesting pops up. And so it was…for the entire trip.
Forgive me, for I am still a novice behind the lens.
You had to be there, because I doubt my pictures would ever do it justice. But then again, it’s hard to take an ugly shot when whatever you’re taking a shot of is absolutely stunning.
Do watch the video that I’ve put together of my trip (which I will put down below) and I really hope you’ll like it!
Anyway, I’m obviously not an expert at all things Melbourne–not even close–but I did come up with a list of places to eat at and visit, just from my own experiences and what I enjoyed best. Hope this could give ideas to any of you that may be traveling there in the near future!
Like true Singaporeans, we sought out the best cafes and restaurants in the city (with the help of local friends) of which I have 3 recommendations:
1 – Rockpool by Neil Perry
An elegant restaurant by the Yarra River that has a great ambience and reasonable prices given its “celebrity-chef” factor. I tried the seafood pasta here and I can honestly say that that dish alone would be enough to bring me back every time I’m in town.
2 – Conservatory at the Crown Casino
So I dined at this restaurant on Friday evening, when they have a special weekend buffet for about $100 pp. Rather pricey, I’ll admit…but they don’t stinge on the good stuff. Almost everything from sashimi to lobsters, steaks and asian noodles. It’s a definite must-try for me!
3 – The Night Market at Queen Victoria Market
Only on Wednesday evenings, the market is lined with exotic food stalls and quaint hand-made souvenirs and much more. It can get a little crowded, and you may leave smelling like smoked duck and wine, but it all adds to the rustic experience that I love.
And it goes without saying that I went a little crazy… So you all know by now that I’m not really one for exclusive brands and I do enjoy my street and high street fashion stores best. I went to the malls that had all your typical brands and tracked down all the factory warehouses in godforsaken parts of town. And to make your lives easier if you are like me, I’ve compiled a list of the best places to shop at (pre-scoped for you by yours truly).
1 – Bridge Road
One of my favourites because of the “brandless” and unique shops that have all the fashion forward designs for a fraction of the price. It has a similar concept to Haji Lane here in Singapore, or Chapel Street in Melbourne (but Chapel St is more for up-per markets and fat-ter wallets). Along this old-fashioned row of shops was where I found the Cotton On factory outlet that literally had nothing over $30 storewide with shoes selling at $2, and numerous 10DOLLAR stores where (I’ll admit, had some really hideous stuff but) you can pick out two or three items that are more than worth your money and time. You can also find tons of cafes and restaurants that are perfect for taking a break in between credit-card swipes! Sadly, many of the shops are beginning to vacate because the rent is too high and not enough people are aware of this street for it to do well, so go soon (before it becomes just another road)!
2 – Highpoint
It’s my favourite mall, I feel. Kinda equivalent to Vivocity in Singapore. It’s a little out of the way, but has literally everything under the same roof (not to mention a cinema and tons of places to eat). So here you’ll be able to find the usual Topshop and Zara, Australian-originated fashion brands like Bardot and Sportsgirl, as well as cheaper discount stores that are almost always on sale. You could spend days in this building.
3 – Direct Factory Outlet
(at South Wharf & Essendon)
This is where all the rejects go…the clothes, not the people. Samples, end of season’s and faulties all go here to be sold at usually less than half the price. Most of the time, if there is a fault in the item, it’s barely noticeable. You’ll be able to live with it a lot better knowing you paid less anyway. Here, you can find many sportswear brands like Nike and Adidas, fashion brands like Dotti and Bardot, and lower-end, quick-fashion street stores like Factorie. I went to both the DFOs at South Wharf (by the Yarra River) and Essendon (near the Airport). I have to say I prefer South Wharf just because it’s nearer the city, people are nicer, it’s closer to accommodation and closer to food. But it is extremely crowded on a daily basis so if that’s not for you, then Essendon may be better.
For All Things Tourist-y
I feel like I’ve done one too many touristy things during all my visits to Melbourne from visiting all the museums in the heart of the city to travelling out to Phillip Island to watch a parade of penguins waddle back to their little penguin families. But there are a few places that I would gladly re-visit–on a vacation or on any ordinary given day.
1 – Melbourne Museum
I do love my museums…and this was a classic, must-see museum if you’re in town. Besides the museum itself that has all the elements that a good museum possesses, the area it’s in is populated with budding musicians busking on the grass with their bands and banjos. The exhibition hall nearby also seasonally houses interesting stores selling interesting things (that are sometimes edible) with street food trucks parked outside–an all round pleasant in and out-of-museum experience.
2 – Immigration Museum
This museum I visited on my latest visit to Melbourne and stuck out to me out of the other museums I’ve been to. It’s interactive, modern and housed in the historical Old Customs House. It showcases stories of Australia’s immigration history in unique and engaging displays.
3 – Melbourne SEA LIFE Aquarium
Though it couldn’t compare to Singapore’s own aquarium in size, I quite enjoyed the trip to the Melbourne aquarium this December. There were a lot of unique displays and viewing areas (that were obviously catered for young children but I relished just the same). The one highlight of the aquarium, I’d have to say, is the massive 18 feet crocodile (approximately 3 times the length of James Franco, Harry Styles, or Brad Pitt–whatever floats your boat) that they had captured not too long ago and affectionately named Pinjarra. Shivers.
4 – Great Ocean Road
So this is about a 2 hour drive outside of Melbourne (depends how fast you drive) and takes about a good day or two if you plan to have a good look-see. I went with a tour company that took us to the 12 Apostles, BBQ lunch by the lighthouse, koala spotting and bird feeding and down to the beach all in one day. And like the true adrenaline junkie I am, I went for a scenic helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles and Great Ocean Road which, up to date, has been the most fun and amazing thing I’ve done–ever. It made jet-skiing in Batam and water rafting in Phuket and bungee jumping in Africa feel like child’s play (I’m exaggerating, those gave me quite a rush as well). A definite must the next time you visit Victoria.
So that’s about all I have compiled from my visits to Melbourne/Australia. I can’t wait to go back again, though I doubt it’d be anytime soon (because next year is hell year).
I do want to make a special mention to all the buskers that I had the pleasure of watching while I was there who not only impressed but inspired me greatly. And one musician in particular whose music resonated with me and my own ideas of how I’d like the music I make to be–whose gentle guitar sounds and hums pulsed through my head even ages after I’d left the street.
If you like Ben Howard, Bon Iver or Matt Corby kind of music, I’d highly recommend you to check him out. If you don’t, check him out anyways. His name is Max Fotheringham (bought his album off his guitar case on Bourke Street and realised you can’t really find it online).
But he is the lead singer of the band Amber Isles (link below) whose music I also love–and can listen to for free. Their sound mildly resembles (or at least, reminds me of) Vancouver Sleep Clinic and M83.
So I’ve come to the end of my post. Hopefully it won’t be too long until I see you next but until then, have a merry merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!
Amber Isles: https://soundcloud.com/amberisles
Australia 2014 Video Diary: