Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Going Home

My flight leaves at 3:40pm so my last day in Melbourne was spent returning the car and getting to the airport. Going to the airport from Melbourne is very easy. Like the buses in KL Sentral that will take us all the way to KLIA, the Skybus Super Shuttle at Southern Cross Railway Station will take you straight to Melbourne Tullamarine airport in 30 minutes.

The bus comes every 10 minutes and it’s almost always full.

I reached KL safely at about 9pm. Getting back to Subang Airport, I found out that my car wouldn’t start after 12days. Luckily Tan and Virtualmystic came over to jump start it.

The 11 days I spent in Australia have been great fun. Nothing really beats going on a holiday with your good friends. I really want to thank Ben, Adrian and Junella for making this such a memorable trip. Here’s a recap of the 11 days:

  1. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Christmas Eve
  2. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Christmas Day
  3. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Boxing Day
  4. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: The Meetup
  5. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: We Have A Car!
  6. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Off to Merimbula!
  7. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Sydney!
  8. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Happy New Year!
  9. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Last Day in Sydney
  10. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Back to Melbourne
  11. Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Great Ocean Road

Next: Skiing (mid 2009)? Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Great Ocean Road

A trip to Melbourne would not be complete without a drive on the Great Ocean Road (website). The Great Ocean Road is a coastal road that brings you along Australia’s south-eastern coast and it offers great views of the ocean as well as attractions along the way. We have decided to leave the Great Ocean Road till the 2nd last day of my stay in Australia so we wouldn’t be in such a rush. I thought wrong.

Plane ride at Geelong. I think it was AUD60 per person if 5 people go.

We set off early at 8:30am to go pick up Junella and Adrian. Then following Princes Highway, we stopped by Geelong to have breakfast. At Geelong bay, there are statues so go check that out.

Typical English breakfast (scones).

After breakfast, from Geelong, we continued down Princes Highway, going into Surf Coast Highway and then onto Great Ocean Road. We planned to go and see the Twelve Apostles at Port Campbell and this was roughly the route we took from Melbourne. Almost 300km on winding mountain roads. It took us close to 6 hours to reach Port Campbell, with all the stopping.

A lighthouse that we encountered on the way.

On the Great Ocean Road, there are a lot of places for sightseeing. This is because the road runs along the coast. So every now and then there will be a stop for you to get down and enjoy the great ocean view. You can park your car at the car parks provided and take a walk down the beach or along the coastline. Walk ways are available in some areas. There’s even a Great Ocean Walk that stretches from Apollo Bay to Glenample, just a few km away from the Twelve Apostles Visitor Center.

The Great Ocean Road Monument.

The Great Ocean Road has a very interesting history. It was built by soldiers who came back from World War 1. 3000 soldiers were employed and it took 13 years to build the road. The monument above was erected to honor them and also those lost during the war.

Great Ocean Road is a great place to take photos. You’ll always have the sea behind you.

Most of the houses that are build beside the Great Ocean Road are completely glass covered so the occupants inside can always have a view of the ocean. That of course comes with a price: no privacy.

Driving on the winding and mountainous roads. If you love nature and sightseeing, I would highly recommend you make frequent stops along the Great Ocean Road. Or relax on the many beaches that they have over there.

Fishing jetty at Lorne.

We stopped by at Lorne because we wanted to get some supplies for a BBQ. Instead of having meat, this time we wanted to get some fish. So where better than to buy it from a shop near the sea?

This guy caught a stingray but he released it back to the sea. Someone caught a squid and it sprayed ink all over him.

The shop beside the jetty at Lorne sells all kinds of fish. We even got some shark meat.

We continued driving up until we reached a stop at Lavers Hill. The sun was hot but the air was still chilly so we got ourselves some ice cream. Like the places in Australia, the ice-cream here have funny names as well. There’s one called the “Gay Time”.

Eating ice-cream in the car because it was too cold outside.

2 hours of driving in the mountains later, we reached the Twelve Apostles Visitor Center. There’s a path that you can walk to see the apostles. Although the name suggests that there are 12 apostles, in reality there were only 9. One collapsed on July 3rd, 2005 so there’s only 8 left now.

Properly constructed walkways for you to enjoy the great view.

4 apostles can be seen here. The nearest one to me in this photo collapsed on July 3rd, 2005.

We covered 2 apostles behind us.

Honestly there’s not a lot to see at the Twelve Apostles besides looking at the Apostles. They do look good standing there though. Nearing 7pm, we drove down to Port Campbell town to look for a BBQ pit. And we found one near the playground.

Seen here are the kebabs, hotdogs, shark meat and lobster(?).

There was still a bottle of red wine left so after dinner we went over to Port Campbell’s beach to watch the sunset.

A flock of birds taking to the skies.

Ben opening a bottle of red wine with a Swiss army knife.

We had some corn from the barbecue. To a great Australia trip.

And the people who made it all possible.

The sun went down at about 9pm. We should have left way earlier because it was getting dark and the mountain roads were pitch black. I drove the first part of the journey back. It was really dangerous because it was dark and the cars were going way above the speed limit. If possible, try and make your trip back before the sun sets. By around 12am Ben switched over and he got us all the way back to Melbourne. Reached home about 3am. Went straight to sleep because the next day at 9am we had to return our car.

We traveled a total of 3000kms for the past 8 days.

Next: Going home. Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Back to Melbourne

Since tonight was going to be the last night that we will be staying at Malaysia Hall, we’ll need to wash the bedsheets before we check out early morning tomorrow. And since we need to drive all the way back to Melbourne, we really need to start early. The plan was to wake up at 4am to wash the bedsheets and then check out at 6am. Obviously that did not happen.

Here’s what happened. I vaguely remember someone waking up at 4am asking everyone else to wake up. A few seconds after that I heard that person dropping back to sleep. I think it was Ben. At around 5am I woke up and me and Adrian took the bedsheets to wash. I went back to sleep while waiting for the laundry. We finally managed to get everything settled by 8am. And our 900km drive back to Melbourne began.

After about 2 hours into our journey.

We used the Hume Highway instead of the Princes Highway this time because we want to get back to Melbourne fast. The Princes Highway will bring us near the coast while the Hume Highway runs inland, passing by Canberra, the capital city of Australia.

Saw some skydivers parachuting down.

And we share the road with 22 wheelers.

It was a long and boring drive, stopping only for toilet breaks and food and to change drivers.

Stopping by McDo for lunch.

Like the rest stops we have on the highways in Malaysia, Australians call theirs service centers. You’ll find petrol stations and food here. The particular service station that we stopped by was so packed that buying food from the counter will probably take an hour. So we went through the drive thru and got our lunch within 15 minutes.

To kill the boredom, we played cards and Taboo. I think we finished the whole deck of Taboo cards. Again.

DSC_0327Holbrook, NSW. The town used to be called “Germanton” but it was obviously not suitable during WW1.

A few posts back I did mention that there are a lot of things to see in the countryside. While driving back to Melbourne, we came across this submarine at a small town called Holbrook (wiki).

This is the HMAS Otway.

Now the interesting thing is that we’ve seen the exact model of this submarine at the National Maritime Museum at Sydney. The submarine at the museum is a fully furnished one. This submarine here is just an empty shell but it shows us some of the parts that we couldn’t see at the museum.

Like these huge propellers powered by two 12,000hp (a typical car has around 100hp) electric motors and the huge rudder and elevators.

There is also a museum there with some history of the submarine. But since we were in a hurry to get back to Melbourne we didn’t have the time to go in. You can read up a brief history of it here and when you visit the submarine at Holbrook there’s a brochure that explains in detail the adventures of HMAS Otway. It is a very interesting read. Maybe I’ll scan a copy and put it here soon.

Us and the HMAS Otway.

We resumed driving. Since we left Sydney we had not refilled the fuel tank (we had covered 600km on that tank alone) and the needle was dropping towards E. I was driving that time and I figured that we wouldn’t run out of petrol anytime soon since the light was not on yet. Because you see, even with the light on, there’s usually a reserve tank that will bring you about 100km more before you finally run out of petrol. So I wasn’t that concerned.

Very old school petrol station with ancient petrol pumps.

But due to concerns by the other passengers in the car, I asked the GPS to take us to the nearest petrol station. It was about 20km away. By this time, the needle was resting at E already but the light was still out. The GPS brought us to the petrol station above. To our horror, it was closed. Now we were in big trouble. Or so we thought.

It was not a time to panic so I looked for the next nearest petrol station from there. It was 25km away. If the petrol station there is closed, we will definitely not be able to make it to the next available petrol station. There was no other choice. We have to make it to that petrol station and it better be open or we will be stranded in the middle of no where. This was getting serious.

Being as light-footed as possible, I drove on following the directions on the GPS. It was a hilly area, not good for fuel economy. I tried to coast down the hills as much as possible. Less than half way there, the dreaded warning light came on. This was it. There was no turning back. Everyone was unusually quiet. The tension in the car was so thick one could almost cut it with a knife.

After what seemed like a lifetime, we rolled into a small town. As we approached the petrol station, I only had one thing on my mind: it better be freaking open. If not I’ll be prepared to siphon fuel from other cars.

And it was open! What a relieve!

The most we ever filled up for the trip. 41 liters. Last check, the Nissan Tiida specification sheet says that the tank capacity is 52 liters. So we still had a bit of petrol left inside.

Nothing like a bit of drama to spice up a boring drive. I mean it wouldn’t be an adventure if everything goes according to plan right? But I don’t seem to have learned my lesson yet. Just a few days back I was in the same predicament at Putrajaya at 2am in the morning.

Cows grazing on the field.

The rest of the journey to Melbourne was uneventful. The weather started getting cold again and soon we didn’t need the air cond anymore. I was quickly reminded how harsh the winds can be at night in Melbourne. We stopped by to have our dinner at Sofia Pizza House.

Sofia Pizza House.

The portions are extremely big. The spaghetti on the right was meant for 2 persons. The 4 of us couldn’t finish it.

The portions are huge so don’t order too much if you go there. It reminds me of the Italianies here in Malaysia except that at Sofia, the portions are way bigger. Not the best Italian restaurant that I’ve been to, but they have very competitive prices.

With dinner over, we headed back home to unwind and get some well needed rest because tomorrow we’ll be going for the Great Ocean Road Drive. About 200km drive on mountainous roads.

Next: Great Ocean Road Drive. Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Last Day in Sydney

Due to last night’s New Year’s Eve celebration, we started our last day in Sydney late. Ben recommended we get some pancakes so we went down to the city. By bus. I would have loved to drive down to the city since it will be so convenient although parking is expensive. But considering that we’re paying AUD3 for the bus ticket one way, we would have AUD24 to spend on parking. That would probably be enough to let us park for about 8-10hours in the city? Hmm…

Pancakes on the rocks.

Pancakes on the Rocks (website) is a restaurant that is famous for its pancakes. Although I’m not a very big fan of pancakes, it seemed like a popular place that we should check out.

Many different pancakes to choose from. The pancakes come with a lot of toppings like nuts and bananas. The 4 of us ate close to RM100 worth of pancakes for lunch.

Since we were near Circular Quay, we went to explore the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

You can also walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s structure for a fee. Not recommended for people who are scared of heights.

Because Sydney is so big, it has 2 CBDs, one in the north, and one in the south. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an arch bridge that links the two together. The steel bridge is actually “over-engineered”, with many redundant load paths so failure of a part will not cause the bridge to collapse. The bridge was presented with the International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by The American Society of Civil Engineers in 1988. Like the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is also a very famous icon of Sydney which means you shouldn’t skip it when you’re at Sydney.

One of the many bolts and nuts that hold the bridge down. The bridge uses 6 million rivets to keep it together.

Taking a walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge from The Rocks (south) to Milsons Point (north).

Walking on the bridge is free. It gives you a great view of Sydney and the harbour below. To get on the bridge, go to Circular Quay and look for Argyle street located west of the quay. There you will find a flight of stairs going up the bridge. Your walk on the bridge begins here and will take you all the way to the other side to Milsons Point. The journey is about 1.5km and will take you around 30 minutes. There are observation points on the bridge also but you have to pay to go in.

View of the Sydney Opera House from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

From the bridge you can also see boats and ships passing into the harbour. There’s a lot of traffic even on New Year’s Day. Spend some time up here and enjoy the great view.

Group photo on the bridge. It was pretty windy on the bridge so the hot Sydney weather wasn’t posing much of a problem.

Our walk on the bridge ended at Milsons Point. It looked completely deserted compared to last night. At Milsons Point we took the train back across the bridge to Town Hall train station. From Town Hall we walked to Sydney’s Paddy Market at Haymarket.

Sydney’s Paddy’s Market at Hay street, Haymarket.

Paddy’s Market reminds me of Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne.

And like Queen Victoria Market, Paddy’s Market sells all sorts of things and it is a good place to get souvenirs from Sydney. Above the market is a shopping center with a food court. The food court offers a lot of variety, including some popular Asian cuisines. And at Paddy’s Market, don’t be surprised to see Asians everywhere.

My favourite laksa is around AUD9 per bowl here.

Places in Australia have very interesting (read: funny) names. There’s one place in Sydney called Woolloomooloo and we thought it might be worth visiting. So we walked from Paddy’s Market to Wooloomooloo which is about 2.4km away. If you plan to walk, travel light and carry refreshments with you. Walking is good because it exposes you to a lot more places.

Monorail tracks running through Liverpool Street.

Art Gallery of New South Wales on Art Gallery Road.

Finally we reached Woolloomooloo so we can take a picture of this sign and then go home.

Woolloomooloo is a very quiet place. It has a bay for mooring boats. Other than that there’s nothing very interesting here. We took a cab back to Malaysia Hall from here and it cost us 15AUD, cheaper than taking the bus and train. So next time when you’re traveling around Sydney, do consider using a taxi because the fares here are pretty reasonable and every taxi driver uses the meter.

Coogee Bay.

Once we got back to Malaysia Hall we took the car out to Coogee Bay. Coogee Bay is another beach located very near Malaysia Hall and just a bit south of Bondi Beach. It’s not as big as Bondi Beach but again, it reminds me of St. Kilda Beach back in Melbourne. There are several BBQ pits here but since it was a public holiday it was packed so a BBQ wasn’t going to happen.

Walking along Arden Street. There are lots of places to eat on this street, not to mention bars and pubs.

We got some kebabs and sat down at the beach to watch the sunset. But since Sydney is on the east coast, you can’t really see the sun disappearing below the sea. But sunrise should be good.

A Proton Satria HYBRID!

Since we had to leave Sydney early tomorrow, we retired to Malaysia Hall early at 9pm.

Playing poker.

And here’s a video of our room. This was shot during our last night here:

That pretty much wraps up our trip to Sydney. There are a lot more places that we didn’t get to go like Manly. Then again we didn’t have a lot of time here in Sydney. But I’m glad that we covered the important landmarks. If I’m coming back to Sydney again, I’ll spend more time at the Sydney Opera House and have more meals at the Sydney Fish Market. And of course, I’ll want to join the New Year’s Eve countdown again at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Trust me, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Next: Back to Melbourne. Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Happy New Year!

Today is New Year’s Eve. Went into the city in the morning so we could explore Darling Harbour. From Malaysia Hall, we took a bus and got off somewhere near Liverpool and Geroge Street and walked to Darling Harbour. If you have 4 persons traveling together, take a taxi instead. It will be cheaper than taking a bus.

Some of the many attractions at Darling Harbour.

This monorail runs through Pyrmont Bridge (wiki). A section of this bridge can actually rotate so big ships can pass through it. Click on the Google Map link above and zoom in on the bridge. You can see the curved seams of the bridge. There’s a photo in the wiki also.

Go take a look at the first photo of this post. Notice that black submarine and the grey destroyer? Both of those are open to the public at the National Maritime Museum (website).

The National Maritime Museum.

This is a museum not to be missed by boat lovers. Take a close up look at how ships are constructed, how life on a ship must have been, and the various exciting equipment that they have onboard. Admission is cheaper if you go on both the HMAS Vampire destroyer and HMAS Onslow submarine. There’s a guided tour in the submarine. The guide will tell you a lot about the submarine so listen to him/her.

This is how sailors slept on the HMAS Vampire destroyer. On the submarine the beds are about the same, except it’s more crammed.

Beds on the HMAS Onslow submarine. Reminds me of an aircraft’s cabin. The crew in the submarine don’t work regular hours. They have shifts that don’t follow the usual 24 hour day pattern. I think in a submarine, your sense of time will be distorted because you can’t see the sky and because of the artificial lighting. And the crew are not allowed to switch beds anytime they want. They’re not allowed to sleep in another person’s bed without proper permissions.

HMAS Vampire’s main turrets. These turrets are radar and computer controlled so you won’t need to aim them manually. Quite advanced for a ship built in the 1940s. That’s why military technologies are always very fascinating. They’re years ahead.

Twin anti-aircraft guns. Two gunners will sit on the moving turret platform and shoot at oncoming planes. There are levers and wheels to move the turret.

These are depth charges used against submarines. They will explode at a predetermined depth and the explosion will hopefully destroy a submarine.

The submarines are also well equipped for battle. 6 torpedo tubes are mounted in front of the HMAS Onslow. Some of these torpedos are powered by diesel engines, and some by electric motors. Some are exploded using wires connected to the torpedos.

Ships are not exactly sunk using the torpedo’s explosive power alone. If the torpedo explodes beside a ship, it might not cause a lot of damage to the ship. That’s why they explode them UNDER a ship. If you watch movies, you’ll always see ships getting sunk that way. When the torpedo explodes under the ship, a huge mass of water is pushed upwards. Due to the principle of buoyancy, the ship will move upwards. But because the column of water (due to the explosion) only supports the middle section of the ship, the structure is not able to withstand the stress and the ship breaks into 2.

There’s 2 periscopes in the submarine. Here’s one that will give you a good view of the top of the tower. Submarine is at the bottom of this photo.

There’s a whole lot more to see and learn here but I won’t want to spoil it for you. Spend at least 3-4 hours and you’ll be glad you paid for the entrance. A real eye-opener. Since it was nearing lunch time, we headed west from the National Maritime Museum to Sydney Fish Market.

Sydney Fish Market. Don’t ever skip this place when you’re in Sydney.

I can’t get enough of the Sydney Fish Market (website). It has everything from the sea under one roof, fresh or cooked. From lobsters to giant sea crabs, fishes to oysters, there’s something for everyone here. And where else better than to have lunch than at the Fish Market? How to get there.

It was packed. Good luck trying to find a seat inside. Instead, go outside. They have a place overlooking the Black Wattle bay where you can enjoy the good food and the sun.

AUD12.90 per dozen.

Found a place outside. If you prefer, you can sit on the grass. We had fish, lobsters and oysters. Great stuff.

Powerhouse Museum.

Left Sydney Fish Market and headed off back to Darling Harbour. Sydney is hotter than Melbourne so walking here is not as pleasant as walking in Melbourne. But it is still acceptable since there’s always a cool breeze blowing. Next off: the PowerHouse Museum (website).

If you’re into engineering or just have a very curious mind, prepare to spend about half a day here. There’s A LOT of things to see. It is also a very interactive museum so there are a lot of hands on. There’s a whole section dedicated to going green. For example there’s an exhibition where you get to see how much CO2 you’ll emit for showering, depending on the duration, the type of heater you use and the type of shower head. By far the best museum I’ve been to in Australia (since I’m into engineering). It’s totally worth the entrance fee (AUD10 for adults, AUD6 for concession). Again, I won’t spoil it for you. You must see it for yourself.

The Enigma Machine.

We planned to be in Sydney during New Year’s Eve because it was rumored that the fireworks here was going to be great. There are many places that you can be to witness the fireworks. Some companies even offer a river cruise for about AUD200+ for a spectacular view of the fireworks, complete with dinner and drinks. But we opted for a cheaper method (free actually) and headed to Bradfield Park at Milson’s Point.

Security is quite tight here. No alcohol.

Because it’s free we had to be there early because it will be packed. We arrived at 5pm and it was starting to get packed already. The fireworks will be at 9pm and the grand finale will be at 12am on New Years Day.

After the entrance. I counted 50 port-a-loos here. The number of people lining up for the toilets are uncountable later on.

From our location, we can see the full view of Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Waiting from 5pm till 12am was unthinkable. But we had cards and Taboo and food.

Met up with Ben’s friend Arthur (chemical engineer working in Sydney). Seen here playing bridge.

7pm. 5 more hours to go.

8pm and it’s already almost full. Arrow shows our location. Here’s our exact location on Google Maps.

Still 8pm.

Some sky writer writing random messages. Still 8pm.

The words on the bridge pillars are projected by projectors. Almost 9pm.

From 9 to 11, we played Taboo with another group of people who were there for the countdown as well. In 2 hours we managed to go through the whole deck. It was great fun and it helped pass the time. At around now, it was impossible to go anywhere because it was jam packed. Don’t try going to the toilets because you won’t be able to get back. Some people at this point will be high on alcohol already so watch out for people falling down around you.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The fireworks lasted for about 12 minutes. The crowd went wild during the countdown. People were screaming, hugging, kissing, throwing stuff around, and popping crackers. All that waiting has finally paid off. It was truly an unforgettable experience, especially when you’re with your friends. I will definitely do it again. And now, time to head back home.

We, like almost everyone, were headed towards the Milsons Point Station. I can’t tell you how many people there were, only photos can do justice to how packed the streets were.

Heading towards Milsons Point Station.

Looking back. The crowd stretches all the way back almost half a kilometer from where we came from. Although the crowd was huge, there was not much pushing or shoving.

Finally we’re outside the gates of Milsons Point Station.

The police were limiting the number of people entering the station. They only let people in when the trains have arrived and have ferried people away from the station. Trains and buses are free tonight.

In the station.

Took the bus back to Malaysia Hall after that. On the bus there was a drunk girl screaming profanities at everyone including the bus driver.

Arrived at 1:30am. A New Year’s Eve well spent.

Next: Last day in Sydney. Continue reading