Winter in Melbourne

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Bozo Backpackers

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Days 58 - 61 28.07.10 - 31.07.10

The air asia flight from KL took us about 8.5hours. The first peeks of Australia for me was when I woke up from snoozing and opened the shade just a crack (not to wake others with the blinding light).  All I saw was a flat expanse of dark orange... from over 30,000ft that was the view to the horizon. Vast, and empty. This was a sharp contrast from the rugged peaks of Java, or the banana plantations of Thailand. As we floated closer to Melbourne the red slowly gave way to dark winter green and then to flat expanses of city, punctuated by a cluster of skyscrapers of the CBD of Melbourne.

It took no time at all to get to ground at the airport and prepare ourselves for border control. I was anxious as I've seen the TV programmes and how intense the officers are.  We made our way to passport control first, where we were met by the friendliest personnel, the chap wished me a pleasant stay. Then we lined up for the customs check. It didn't help my nerves that "Border Control" were filming that day. The last thing I wanted to be was red faced, sleepy eyed Irish tourist watching her belongings getting yanked out and displayed for all to see, including the pile of laundry I've yet to wash. However, all my torment was inane as the lady simply looked at our passports and waved us to the door marked exit. 

Melbourne is a really pleasant city. The streets are grid structured with wide roadways and sidewalks. The people are multicultural. We stayed in a place called Bozo Backpackers. It was not my favourite place. There was no heating and it was bitterly cold at night (5C). At least the others staying there were nice, and it had a good location close to the Queen Victoria Markets. Why oh why don't we have proper markets like this in Ireland??? Rows and rows of fruit and veg stalls, and old style halls with meat and fish stalls, deli, sweets and bakery, and clothing, bric a brac, etc. We shopped here in lieu of any foodstores around. The fruit was so cheap, about 14c for granny smith apples, compared to 60c in Dublin!

Anyway we did explore the city centre also. Melbourne Central shopping centre has an old factory building enclosed inside it - really unusual. Also on the main streets were some pretty churches. Just across from Flinders street station, near the Yarra river, is an interesting collection of modernist buildings enclosing tourist exhibitions and ABBA World. We didn't visit this time but instead continued over the river to see the parks of Melbourne.

We explored the Royal Botannic Gardens which were absolutely lovely, unfortunately I didn't bring the camera with me that day. It has been a while since we wandered purposely built parkland. On the way back we passed the war tribute memorial as well as a touching statue of Edward "Weary" Dunlop - a hero from the war.

Honestly, I didn't warm to the city for the first two days, perhaps jetlag, perhaps the cold hostel & weather or maybe reverse culture shock after the chaos of Asia. Melbourne was so quiet, apart from the main street.But all in all we really enjoyed the city and hopefully we will return to see the difference summer makes.

The main thing I liked about Melbourne was the friendly vibe from the people. We encountered so many nice people there, some in the hospitality industry, others were simply passersby. 
On our last day, we had a guy who was waiting to stay in the hostel hand us the card of his employer who recruits for hotels up in Queensland and give us his own email also. He may have been a scout but still.

 Then walking to the station, I stopped to take a photo of Bryan in Flagstaff Gardens when an elderly gentleman came up (he was waiting for his dog to do it's business) and asked if we would like a photograph taken in the "beautiful winter landscape". After obliging us with a photograph he filled us in on the history of the area and the building he lived in which was built by three brothers, James Heffernans. Apparently this chap owns the building now, which one of the oldest in Melbourne. His parting line was "well that's a little bit of local history, such as we have it". 

Our 12 hour night bus from Melbourne to Sydney was with Firefly who I recommend for hospitality and service. The bus itself was spacious and comfortable. Bryan didn't sleep a lot though, where as I got about 5 hours.
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