Date: 31 August -5 September 2014 via Singapore Airlines
Accommodation: Ibis Hotel
Weather: Sunny with scattered rainshowers in the evening
Temperature: 0-10 degrees (freezing for a tropics girl like me)
Outfit: Includes trench coat, top and bottom thermals plus leggings, scarf and beanie
Was blessed to go to Melbourne, Australia for work. I’ve always wanted to see Oz! Unlike my last mission to China, I was looking forward to my mission to Melbourne since our training venue was right smack in the middle of the City Business District (CBD) which means there’s plenty to do, see and eat!
I had a different flight schedule from my bosses so technically, this was my first international solo flight (exciting!). I came prepared since I did my research beforehand. I knew the places I wanted to visit. It wasn’t much since I won’t be going out of the CBD as this was a work trip. It was interesting to note that the immigration officer barely looked at my business visa then immediately stamped my passport. They say that immigration officers are more strict with tourists than with business people.
My original accommodation was supposed to be at Mantra on Russell, this apartment style loft but thankfully, my boss decided to book at another budget hotel for logistical reasons. Ibis Hotel at Russel Street was closer to our training venue (and was cheaper too) so that’s where we booked.
Sky Bus Transfer: At the airport, I found a taxi driver holding a placard with my name on it. I knew my hotel did not include transfers so I was surprised by the taxi. Turns out there was a misunderstanding. I felt bad that I had to turn the driver away since I really didn’t want to take a taxi. Per my research, it was convenient and much more cheaper to take the Sky Bus, an airport shuttle that goes to and fro the airport and terminal. Plus, they offer free hotel transfers to selected hotels, including the Ibis. After exchanging currency, I found the Sky Bus kiosk and bought my roundtrip bus fare. I highly recommend this! Please visit their website for complete details. Their site is so comprehensive. The trip was so convenient, the bus is clean and way cheaper than hiring a taxi. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly than being a lone passenger in a cab. From the bus terminal, I waited for a few minutes for another van which took me directly to Ibis, for free!
Ibis Hotel: Ibis Hotel is very quaint and clean, the interior is nice, the staff are accommodating enough and the rooms are nice too. They don’t offer free wifi in the rooms but you have free 30 minutes access at the lobby or you can use their computers located in the lobby too. There’s a mini fridge, cable TV and iron in the room. Shower and bed are nice. Was very comfortable. I really liked the hotel.
Public Bath. After freshening up, I went around the area and first saw this big red building which was called Public Bath. Reminded me of a Japanese public bath. Haha. But basically it’s a swimming pool with a fancy façade and name.
St. Paul’s Cathedral and Flinders Street Railway Station. I then saw St. Paul’s Cathedral at the end of the street. It reminded me of the churches I saw in Europe, only this one was in brown/ terracotta while in Europe, most were gray or black; in other words, gloomy. This one looked more sunshiny. Across it is the Flinders Street Railway Station. It’s a working train station with an old looking façade. Too bad I wasn’t able to ride a train inside. Lots of nice buildings to see along the way.
Hillsong Australia. As planned, at around 5:30pm, I attended worship service at – wherelse? – Hillsong Australia which amazingly had a service a few blocks from our hotel. Needless to say, Hillsong was amazing. I really enjoyed my time of worship. I dropped by the Woolworth’s grocery store which was open until 11pm (note: I would drop by the grocery store every night because I love grocery stores!). Target is also located near Woolworth’s where I was able to buy two knit beanies – one red and one nude – for only $3 (about P120) since it was on 50% sale.
RMIT University: The next five days, I had work as usual (9am-6pm) at RMIT University, which by the way had amazing architecture, so the only time I went out was early morning before 9am, during lunch or after work. The way I’ll narrate my story has no time period whatsoever. I’ll just share the places I visited. I also have limited photos, unfortunately.
Queen Victoria Market: In the morning, I visited the Queen Victoria Market, which is their public market selling fresh produce, different types of bread and cheese and even ready to eat sandwiches. I love this place! Was able to buy fresh peaches and strawberries!
As expected in most developed countries I’ve been to, one serving of their meal is good enough for two. A ham and cheese croissant with coffee cost me about $10, which is the regular meal rate for Oz. I even had leftover bread! Bacon, two sunny side up eggs, two pieces toast and coffee was also around $10 but it was sooo filling! I tried a chocolate macaron for about $3 and a bratwurst bun with all the toppings like sauerkraut, onion and cheese for about $8. Since Oz is known as a melting pot of cultures, don’t be surprised to see tons of different cuisines – from Greek to Thai to Japanese. Some of my meals, available all around the CBD, included some Gyros, Japanese curry, Vietnamese Pho and Thai curry with rice. Was also able to try their local fast food, Hungry Jacks, for the saddest $10 burger meal.
State Library of Victoria and The Domed Reading Room. During a lunch break, I visited the State Library of Victoria which was amazing, especially the Domed Reading Room. It looked like something that came out of a Hogwarts (though I’m not a fan). Or more appropriate, it looks like the library from Beauty and the Beast (I’m a certified Disney princess so I should know).
After marveling at the Domed Reading room and spending some time inside, I went around the free museum in the library which had pretty interesting artifacts. One side had paintings and sculptures while the other had old books, library paraphernalia and even early comic books.
Outside, there’s a huge chess match happening with some of the boys. Looked like a set of Alice in Wonderland or something. Also saw a “pigeon man” and a colorful lady with pink hair. Afterwards, I bought some freshly baked bread from a local store and had my lunch outside, with two young lads practicing their skateboards. I sat on a bench and just watched people, which is one of my favorite past times. That’s one of the things I love about visiting developed countries. You can just buy bread at a local store, sit on a park bench and eat – no judgment, no pollution, just you with your thoughts.
Parliament House. Walking the streets of Melbourne CBD, I was brought to the Parliament House, a huge columned white building that reminds me of a post office. Their post office was actually along the area too. It looked better at night though. I love how their CBD is a combination of old and new.
Royal Exhibition Building. One early morning, I walked towards the Royal Exhibition Building which is a World Heritage Site. Too bad my phone’s battery died on me so I only have two photos! I loved walking in that place because it was right in the middle of a well-maintained park.
Free city tram. On another evening, I took the chance to ride the free city tram. I think it was a Thursday since on regular days, it was only until 6pm. From Thursday to the weekend, it was until 9pm I think. Wait for the city tram to drop by Russel Street (or ask a local) and just get on. It would give you a good tour of the city. Saw the harbor and the ferris wheel and even passed by the Etihad Stadium.
Melbourne Children’s Hospital. For work, we went on a “field trip” and was able to go inside the Children’s Hospital which was amazing! There was an aquarium and a huge sculpture (which I personally think is a caterpillar to symbolize the transformation of the sick kids once they get better) at the middle of the lobby. Inside one of the halls, there was even a place for real meerkats. We arrived during their feeding time so we saw about three of them scurrying around. How I wish our pediatric hospital was like theirs so kids won’t be sad or depressed because of their illness. We also went to the Convention Centre which was again, a-ma-zing! I can’t even describe how awesome that place. Aside from its mere gigantic capacity, it can literally turn into anything you want – a stage, a convention center, a dinner gala, a country (kidding). Plus, it was my first time to ride an elevator which can actually fit a whole truck! Haha!
Shopping. Melbourne CBD has tons of stores along its streets so just choose your own adventure. It’s interesting to note though that a lot of the malls and stores, except souveneir shops and most restos and cafes, close as early as 7pm. Coming from Manila with malls that close at 10pm and stores that are basically 24/7, this was a shocker for me, especially since the CBD is a tourist spot. Anyhow, other places you might find interesting is the Melbourne Central, which is a train station with lots of stores around like Crumpler (an Australian brand) and Coles grocery (another known store). There’s also an H&M store parallel to Russel St. Its building was nice because it looked so old.
Pasalubong/ gifts. Of course, bulk of my pasalubong bought at the grocery are all the available flavors of the famous Tim Tams – double coated, white chocolate, chewy caramel, dark chocolate, orange, strawberry etc. At the time I went to Woolsworth, it was half the price ($2.50) though if I paid full, it would be more expensive than Manila’s price of the basic chocolate Tim Tams which is about P120. With the discount, there’s not much difference, I guess, except that there are more flavors in Oz. My sister also wanted some unique flavored Cadbury so I bought two – honeycombed and double decked white and milk chocolate. I also bought a pack of caramel filled Cadbury in the shape of a Koala. Haha! I was also looking for some Koala shaped pasta, like the ones I saw in a souvenir shop, but the closest I could find was of a bear. Haha! Don’t know why but there were a lot of chai tea latte drinks at the store so I bought a box. Bought some random yoghurt and it was so good! Other items I bought were Cadbury baking chocolate and assorted shower gels for only $2.50. How I wish Manila would have more choices in grocery items like theirs.
In conclusion, Melbourne is definitely one city I would consider moving to. I really enjoyed the weather, the people, the city. Everything about it. It’s like simple living but with the feel of a city.
Lastly, here’s some information I’ve gathered that you might find useful. Places I visited, their locations (you won’t get lost as the CBD is small and is walking distance to everywhere) and opening hours.
1. Queen Victoria Market – Corner of Victoria St and Elizabeth St
· Sunday: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
· Monday: Closed
· Tuesday: 6:00 am – 2:00 pm
· Wednesday: Closed
· Thursday: 6:00 am – 2:00 pm
· Friday: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm
· Saturday: 6:00 am – 3:00 pm
2. Woolsworth supermarket
· 7am-11pm, 7 days a week
3. Parliament House – Spring St, East Melbourne VIC 3002
4. St Paul’s Cathedral and Flinders Train Station – Corner Flinders Lane and Swanston Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
• Monday – Wednesday: 9am – 8pm
• Thursday – Friday : 9am – 10pm
• Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 9pm
6. State Library of Victoria and The Domed Reading Room – 328 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
7. Royal Exhibition Building (World Heritage Site)
9 Nicholson St, Carlton VIC 3053
8. Melbourne Town Hall
90-120 Swanston Street, Melbourne VIC 3000