Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Sydney!

The drive from Merimbula to Sydney is a shorter one. But we still woke up and checked out early. Like they say, better early than late! And we won’t want to miss too much of Sydney. So after making sure we’ve got everything, we left Merimbula and continued on to Sydney on the Princes Highway.

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Bega Cheese. Their cheese is available in Malaysia too.

The Bega Cheese Factory is located at Bega. Bega is located on the Princes Highway and it’s about 30 minutes away from Merimbula. It’s on the way if you’re driving to Sydney so you can’t miss it.

You can’t actually visit the factory where they make the cheese, but you can take a look at some cheese making equipment that they have on display at the Bega Cheese Factory Visitor Center. They have free cheese tasting and they sell all sorts of cheese as well as souvenirs there. You can also have your meals there. Definitely a place worth visiting if you’re passing by Bega.

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The cheese here have funny names (“Strong and Bitey”, “Tasty”, “Heritage Reserve”) and even funnier tastes.

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A small cheese museum is located above the Bega Cheese Factory Visitor Center. Here they show you how cheese is made, starting from the cow.

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Apparently their cheese has won many contests. Shown here are the judging sheets for their cheese, dating all the way back to 1932.

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Panorama taken near Bega. Click here for a slightly larger version. Let me know if you want the humongous version.

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Clear blue cloudless skies. The lack of clouds means that it rarely rains here. Taken near Bega.

Left Bega after buying some cow themed post cards. We headed further north on the Princes Highway and came to Batemans Bay. Batemans’ Bay is around 140km away from Bega. Passing by Batemans’ Bay, you’ll see clear blue waters and lots of boats.

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It is also a good place to fish. The sign says “Batemans Marine Park, a good days fishing with plenty more for tomorrow”.

We would have loved to stop by and explore Batemans’ Bay but we were in a hurry to reach Sydney. On the way we stopped by KFC to have our very late lunch. The menus here are very different from what we have in Malaysia. Once I had this breakfast roll at MCD with ham and eggs in it. Very tasty.

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This is their idea of stuffing you. 2 pieces of chicken, ham and salad all crammed between two buns. The whole thing is about the size of a 1500ml bottle.

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Interesting packaging. What do you think this is?

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The sun came out in the afternoon.

Driving from Merimbula to Sydney, I can actually feel the change in temperature. It gets hotter as we approach Sydney. Soon we had to use the air cond because it was getting too hot. 4 degrees latitude can sure make a lot of difference.

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The police here warns you on what they’re cracking down on so you can concentrate on committing other traffic offenses.

We drove into Sydney at 6pm. After some confusion on the roads, we arrived at Malaysia Hall Sydney at Alison Road, Randwick at close to 7pm.

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Malaysia Hall Sydney.

The Malaysia Hall is a place where Malaysian undergraduates or postgraduates can stay. There are Malaysia Halls everywhere. There’s one in Melbourne and there’s one in the UK as well. If you are a Malaysian and you’re traveling on a tight budget, do consider staying at Malaysia Hall. We paid AUD4 per person per night at the Sydney Malaysia Hall. Click here for more information.

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These doors are magnetically locked. You’ll need to press a button from the inside or use a special keycard from the outside to unlock the door.

Malaysia Hall is not a hotel, but it has everything that you need for a comfortable stay. Hot water, personal toilets, comfortable beds, laundry machines and friendly residents. Remember to bring your own detergent if you wish to do your laundry there. I didn’t but I was able to borrow a few cups of it from a friendly fellow Malaysian who was also staying there. Thanks!

Right after we checked in with the warden (friendly ex-Malaysian who’s been in Sydney for almost 20 years), we drove out to Bondi Beach which is 6km away from Malaysia Hall. Parking is hard to find at Bondi Beach at night because the place is packed.

Parking at Sydney is expensive. The cheapest is around AUD2.50 per hour and it can go up to AUD10 per hour. So over the next few days we’ll be mainly using public transport to get around because parking at Malaysia Hall is free.

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Top left: Parking coupon at Bondi Beach. We wanted to park at Bondi beach but didn’t have enough change to get the desired duration of parking. So what do we do? We wait at the parking meter. And we got it exactly till 9:59pm because after 10pm, parking is free.

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Bondi Beach. Lots of people on the grass enjoying the cool night breeze.

Unfortunately I don’t have any good photos of Bondi Beach because it was dark and I didn’t bring a tripod along. But Bondi Beach is somehow similar to St Kilda Beach. You have a beach and along the beach there are places to dine. At Bondi Beach, there’s also a skate park. Since we had a late lunch, we played Frisbee on the beach for a while. The weather here at night is perfect. It’s slightly colder than Malaysia, but not to the point where you’ll need to wear a jacket. We even saw some people going for a swim (at around 10pm?).

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Hurricane’s Grill and Bar. Ordered their lamb ribs (sorry Janet, lamb is just too irresistible!) and it was heavenly. You should try both their lamb and pork ribs if you’re there.

When traveling in Australia, it is advisable to bring along a bottle of water at all times because bottled water is not cheap here. In Melbourne, there are water fountains in the city so you can always fill up your bottles. Tap water is also drinkable in Melbourne.

After our dinner we drove to the Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera house is located at Circular Quay. To get there you can take a train to the Circular Quay station.

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The Sydney Opera House.

It was very happening at the Sydney Opera House that night. Most people are out to enjoy the eve of New Year’s Eve. Walking from Circular Quay towards the Sydney Opera House, you’ll see bars and pubs and diners. At the Sydney Opera House itself, there’s a fine dining restaurant which looked very expensive. From the Sydney Opera House, the city skyline is visible and you can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge in full.

So how did they design and build such an icon? According to Ben, the designer drew the domes freehand so the engineers had no idea how to build them. It was only until halfway through the project that they suddenly came up with the idea of carving out metal spheres into the shape of the domes. The whole project overshot the initial budget by 3000%. Yes, that’s 3 thousand percent. But it was probably worth it. Now Sydney has one of the world’s most recognizable buildings.

Took a walk around the Sydney Opera House to see it up close. The domes are actually covered with tiles. We decided to leave walking the Circular Quay for another day. Didn’t linger long in the city because tomorrow will be a very long day.

Next: Happy New Year! Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Off to Merimbula!

The Melbourne to Merimbula (wiki) trip was calculated to take almost 8 hours. Not wanting to arrive at Merimbula at night, we decided to set off early. We’ve packed our bags right after coming back from Junella’s BBQ the night before so all we had to do was load the things in the car in the morning.

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Quite a lot of stuff because we had to pack for Sydney as well. Everything fits nicely in the spacious boot, with space left for a several roadkills (hint: great for *murderers* to transport dead bodies too). Really glad we didn’t get a Hyundai Getz.

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The Latio’s fuel tank wasn’t that big but it is quite fuel efficient. We get on average about 6.5l/100km. For comparison, the hybrid Toyota Prius does about 5.2l/100km (the smaller the number the better).

As the old saying goes, the start of a long journey begins at the petrol station. Unlike in Malaysia where the price of petrol is fixed, here the prices differ from station to station. So we’re constantly on the lookout for the cheapest place to pump petrol. I think the chepest we’ve found is 101 cents per liter and the most expensive is 136 cents per liter. And also some stations offer a discount if you have a receipt showing that you’ve spent a certain amount at a certain supermarket.

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Notice the lines on the side of the roads? Notice the serrations on the lines? If your tyre runs on the line, you’ll feel the steering vibrate and hear a noise. That’s to tell you that you’re driving out of the line.

From Melbourne, we used the Princes Highway and headed off to Merimbula. Princes Highway is a toll free highway. Mostly single lane but there are plenty of overtaking lanes. All along the way green meadows dominate the landscape. Fortunately for us, the weather on that day was cloudy so it was perfect for driving. Aircond wasn’t even needed. But the skies were not as clear and blue as I wanted it to be for the photos.

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We encountered cows crossing the road. Cars have to stop for them.

We kept strictly to the speed limit because the fines are not cheap. With cruise control on it was not that much of a problem anyways. But sometimes when we pass through small towns, the speed limit drops to 50km/h and it was agonizing to drive at such slow speeds.

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Petrol tend to be more expensive when you’re out of town and in the middle of nowhere.

We passed by many towns on our way to Merimbula. These towns are perfect for stopping by to grab lunch or to refresh yourself after driving for long periods. Sometimes these towns offer interesting attractions. On our way back we saw a town with a full sized submarine (coming soon). Also, there are lots of places to stop by to enjoy the scenery. If you have the time, I would recommend taking a 5 day drive from Melbourne to Sydney. Stop by places like Merimbula and explore the country side. There are a lot to be discovered out there.

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Merimbula coming up!

After 8 hours on the road, with some stops in between, we arrived in Merimbula. I was surprised by the number of beaches here. There’s the Bar beach, the Main Surf Beach, the Short Point Beach and the Middle Beach all within 10km of each other. Further away there’s the Tura beach and Pambula beach. And Merimbula is bursting with people. It’s packed. Somehow it reminds me of Port Dickson. It is the perfect beach getaway.

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Comfort Inn.

We checked in at Comfort Inn (website) where we had a reservation. Merimbula is packed during this time of the year because of Christmas and New Year so it is wise to book your hotel rooms in advance. The rooms at Comfort Inn can comfortably fit 4 persons although they have a 2 person limit on a single room. But we sneaked in anyways. The sofa is very comfy too. I know because I had a good sleep there. There’s everything you can expect at a hotel: tv, minibar, aircond, hot showers, free DVD rentals.

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Warnings at the beach. Most people ignore the “alcohol free zone”.

Legend has it (actually Junella told us her experience) that you can go to the beaches and pry oysters off the rocks and eat them on the spot. All you need to bring is a butter knife and lemons. So armed with those, we went off to Middle Beach.

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Driving towards Middle Beach.

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Seagull yawning.

Middle beach is a very long arc shaped beach. It’s about 5 minutes drive from the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre. Carparks are provided at the beach. Since it was facing the open sea, the winds were strong and cold. But still many people come here to swim. There were a bunch of people fishing on the rocks. And some surfers too. Since oysters live on rocks, we headed there.

This beach has squeaky sand! The sand squeaks when you step on it! I had initially wanted to visit Squeaky Beach near Wilsons Promontory National Park, but it seems like this beach is not much different. Here’s a demo:

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Unfortunately most of the oysters that we found have been opened already. So we went off to explore the rocks.

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Climbing dangerous rock towers.

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This is a good one. Guess what Ben was trying to do with his shoes and socks?

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Surfing is a very patient sport. I’ve seen surfers fall off so many times before they were able to catch the perfect wave.

Later we headed off to the smaller Bar beach (marker B on the map) to see what it has to offer. If you look at the map, you’ll realize that you can see the Main Surf Beach from Bar Beach. And we could. Bar Beach is a relatively quiet beach. But there’s a BBQ pit there. Which calls for an impromptu BBQ!

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Bar Beach. The BBQ pit is located at the shed with the green roof.

BBQ pits are everywhere in Australia so one must know how to use it properly. The following is by all means the complete guide to having an impromptu BBQ in Australia:

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First, you must find an unoccupied BBQ pit. These can be found near beaches. Sometimes on tourist maps these spots are specially marked.

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Got some kangaroo meat as well. There’s a funny taste about it and I’m not sure if I’ll want to try it again.

Secondly, you must buy food from supermarkets like WoolWorths. Recommended food for BBQ: lamb, beef, sausages. Their sausages are different so try them.

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Marinade the meat. Get some BBQ sauce and spices.

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Don’t forget to get some greens to drown out the guilt of eating cancer causing foods and get some sauces to go with it. Sweet chili sauce tend to go well with everything.

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For carbohydrates, you can get some white bread.

These BBQ pits are electrically powered and there’s a button that you can press to heat up the pit. Food is cooked on the hot plate at the top. There’s a timer that will turn off the pit automatically after some time (15 minutes?) if the button is not pressed again during that duration. There’s an indication lamp that will show if the pit is working. So while you’re barbecuing make sure you constantly monitor the lamp, and pressing the button whenever the lamp goes off.

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Before you can start barbecuing, you must clean the pit first. While buying food for the BBQ, make sure that you also grab a bottle of vinegar, some sponges and serviettes. Vinegar turns out to be a very good cleaning agent. To clean, heat the pit up first. When it is hot, pour some vinegar on the hot plate and scrub it with the sponge. The plate will be hot so be careful. There’s a hole in the middle that is connected to the drain so you can dump all the dirt/vinegar/water down that hole. Scrub the plate until it’s clean enough. Whatever that won’t come off will probably not come off when you’re using it. There’s usually a sink nearby for washing. Run some clean water over the plate and you’re ready to BBQ.

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For easier and less messy barbecuing, get your cooking oil in an aerosol can. Just Spray and Cook. Seen here also is the white vinegar we used to clean the pit.

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Having a hot BBQ on a cold day is simply great. It was really cold at Merimbula. Was about 15 degrees in the evening. Enjoying hot cooked food while watching the sunset is heavenly.

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After you’re done barbecuing you should clean up the place. Wash the pits again with vinegar and water. You might have to scrap some of the carbon off the hot plate with knives. Serviettes would come in very handy here. Make sure you throw your rubbish into the proper bins that are provided. In short, leave the place the way you found it.

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Since we’ll be heading off to Sydney early tomorrow, and since it was too cold and dark to visit other beaches, we went back to our hotel and called it a day after some KwaiFeh and TV. More driving tomorrow.

Next: Sydney! Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: We Have A Car!

Once again we managed to wake up early because today will be the day all hell breaks loose. We will be getting a car. We made a booking with Europcar to rent a car from 28th Dec till 4th Jan. I’ll recommend them because their prices are pretty competitive, especially during peak seasons. We got ours for AUD 470.

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Our 2nd last time taking the bus.

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We got a Nissan Tiida, also known as the Latio here. 1.8 liters, 4 speed auto, a very nice car to drive.

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The Monash Freeway. We use this quite often to get from Adrian’s place back to Ben’s place. It links the suburbs.

Driving in Australia is very very different from driving in Malaysia. In Malaysia, there are no speed limits on the road, even though there are signs. In Australia, if you drive at 62km/h on a 60km/h road, you will get fined. In Malaysia, signal lights are only used when indicating that you want to take a particular parking space. In Australia, any turning of the steering wheel must first be indicated with the signal lights. This includes switching lanes, overtaking, turning into an exit, going into a parking space, and on roundabouts. Talking about roundabouts, in Australia, if you want to go 12 o’clock, you don’t indicate. You just drive straight. If you want to take a 9 o’clock, you indicate left and if you want to take a 3 o’clock, you indicate right. In Malaysia, people give way to cars. In Australia, it’s the other way round. In Australia, rear seatbelts are required. In Malaysia, it’s the same.

With so many strict rules (especially the speeding part), I find it a bit harder to drive in Australia. I have been forced to drive at 40km/h at some roads and at speeds like that, it can drive you crazy. Thank God our car came with cruise control. And on some traffic lights, you have to perform the Hook Turn. It is a bit confusing for those who are not used to it. And also you have to watch out for trams on some roads. Besides a few near misses, we did not get involved in any major accidents.

So what do you do once you get a car? Simple, we drive it to the end of the world. Literally. Initially we planned to go to Mount Dandenong. But Caryn’s dad told us about Mornington Peninsula where all the wineries are. And Ben suggested we go over to Point Nepean which is located at the very tip of Australia.

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Montalto Vineyard.

Our first stop was the Montalto Vineyard located on Shoreham Road. (website). As I have mentioned earlier, wine seems to be indispensable to Australians. Wines are available anywhere. Vineyards here are open to the public and they usually offer free wine tasting so you can make a better decision on which wine you want to buy.

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Montalto offers several types of wines. They have their “Tasting Notes” (seen here) to help you decide which wine you want to try. The notes will tell you roughly what to expect from the wines.

We tried a few types. Some were good, some were not exactly my taste. In the end, I settled for a bottle of Moscato because I already bought a bottle of red wine from KLIA duty free. Another thing to note is that you may get tipsy if you taste too much wine. So drivers beware.

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You can try their olive oils too.

They also have a nice place set up overlooking their vineyard for dining purposes. You can have something to eat while you enjoy their excellent wine under the warm afternoon sun. If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon lunch with friends or family, or simply just want to enjoy a good bottle of wine, this is the place to go.

After we were done at the vineyard, we drove on to find the chocolate factory. But on the way, we discovered something interesting so we decided to stop by and have a look.

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The Ashcombe Maze (website) is a life-sized maze where you can get lost in. However, the lack of time and the pricey entrance fee (AUD15) means we didn’t go in. There’s always Google Earth.

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Ben trying to see if he can blend in.

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Chocolate tasting at Mornington Peninsula Chocolates.

Our search for the chocolate factory brought us to Mornington Peninsula Chocolates (website). Here, chocolates are hand-made and you can see them being made when you’re in the shop.

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Not as big as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

Chocolate tasting here is AUD2. They let you try some of their selections but unfortunately I didn’t find any to my liking. I’m a big fan of dark chocolates by the way. But if you do love chocolates, I’ll recommend this place. They can even make custom chocolates!

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The Melway is your guide to Melbourne. You must have this if you want to get around Melbourne in a car. They have one for Sydney as well, called the Sydway.

From the chocolate factory, we drove north to Arthur’s Seat (website). Arthur’s Seat is a 314m summit and it is so called because there’s a seat belonging to Arthur at the peak. The view at the top is amazing.

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Chapman’s Point. Just one of the many roadside stops on the way to Arthur’s Seat. On a clear day, you can even see Melbourne. And it’s usually very windy because it’s facing the sea.

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We asked a guy to help us take a group shot at one of the stops.

The view driving up Arthur’s Seat is actually comparable to the Great Ocean Drive (coming soon) although shorter. Bring a pair of binoculars along and you’ll have a great view of the places below. Unfortunately the chairlift was out of service while we were there (as of now it still is). Going up Arthur’s Seat on a chairlift will definitely give you something to remember for a long long time to come.

On the way to Point Nepean, we stopped on Point Nepean Road to grab some fish and chips for our late lunch.

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Point Nepean.

Point Nepean (website, wiki) is located at the very end (west) of Point Nepean Road. The park entrance is located here and you’ll have to pay to get past this point. Vehicles are allowed in until a certain point. After which you’ll need to start walking to get to Fort Nepean. It’s 2.5km one way so make sure you have plenty of time. Park closes at 5pm.

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So stay on the path!

This place used to be a military installation with forts and gun turrets. Big guns capable of hitting targets kilometers away were once used here. Now you can explore the ruins of these forts and see how the guns were loaded and where they’re pointed at. Experience how life must have been during the war.

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The long walk gives you a very scenic view of the ocean so take your time. Click for slightly larger version.

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Group shot by one of the forts. My hair wasn’t chopped off by photoshop. The wind from the sea caused that. That’s how strong the winds are here.

All along the way, you are encouraged to explore everything. They have very informative signs.

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The disappearing gun. They’ll never know what hit them.

The disappearing gun was designed so that the recoil from the firing stows the gun underground. This allowed the gun to be hidden out of sight while it was being reloaded.

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This photo is very special because it was taken at the tip of Australia (B marks the spot).

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The only regret that I have about this place is that we did not spend enough time here. We were soon rushing back for Junella’s BBQ (Thanks Ju for inviting us!).

Australia’s countryside has a lot to offer and I would really recommend getting a car and just drive and explore. The Mornington Peninsula is a great place to start. Spend a relaxing weekend out of the city. You’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

Next: Off to Merimbula! Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: The Meetup

Today was the very first day that we managed to wake up on time. You can’t really help wanting to sleep longer under the thick, warm blankets because it is freaking cold in the mornings. The worst was 9 degrees. And when you shower you just want to stand under the hot water and not get out. However, there’s an unofficial 4 minute shower rule to conserve water. Unlike Malaysia, water is not abundant in Melbourne. Here we have so much rain that it causes floods during the monsoon season. We tend to leave the taps running when washing our dishes and cars. In Melbourne there’s a totally different method of washing dishes that saves water. Currently the 3A water restriction rule is enforced in Melbourne.

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The famous Queen Victoria Market. It is probably so called because it is located on Queen Street and Victoria Street.

Queen Victoria Market (website) has everything that you can think of. From fresh meat to fermented cheese, delicious cherries to organic wines, bargain clothes to recycled handicrafts, they have everything here. This place is huge and it is probably one of the best places to buy souvenirs for your trip because prices are dirt cheap. Come early in the morning if you want more selection of fresh produce because by the time we were there at 10am, most of the shops were closing down already. To get here, you can take the train to Melbourne Central Station, then take a northbound tram along Elizabeth Street to Victoria Street. Or you can simply walk from Melbourne Central Station.

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Fresh meats. If you come near closing time, sometimes they’ll give you good deals.

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Having our lunch at the food court beside the Meat and Fish section.

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Assorted pies. You must try the pies when you’re here. They’re delicious, especially the beef pies.

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There are wines for sale as well. You can go for a free tasting so you can know which wine you like. But if you really want to taste wine, I’ll suggest you head over to Mornington Peninsula where the wineries are (we’ll be going there tomorrow so check back for the next post).

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Cherries are a must-have. These are real cherries with seeds in the middle, not the fake ones that we find on cakes. The non-organic ones cost about AUD6.

Queen Victoria Market is divided into several sections (Click here for a map). You’ve already seen the meat and fish section, the Deli section where they sell the pies, and the fruits section. From there you can cross Queen’s Street to get over to the “Sheds” where they sell all kinds of things. Not unlike the “pasar malam” that we have over here in Malaysia.

Crossing roads in Melbourne: I think it is worth mentioning here that jaywalking is illegal in Melbourne and you can get a AUD50 fine for it. You can only cross a road when there’s a pedestrian crossing and when the green man is illuminated. My friends have told me that sometimes undercover policemen will jump out from nowhere and catch you and give you a fine. Fortunately, it has not happened to us yet. But watch out anyways.

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I like the one that says “if you can read this I’ve lost my caravan”.

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You can find jumbo CALCUILATORS (cal-ciu-la-tors) also.

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Or get a portrait of yourself drawn.

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National Gallery of Victoria.

The National Gallery of Victoria (website) is the place to go if you love art. Admission is free. Paintings are actually quite interesting because the artist can plan beforehand what he wants in it. So usually there’s a story and some hidden agendas behind a painting. And because paintings can be interpreted differently, it adds to the fun of guessing what the artist is actually trying to say. Well, that’s the conclusion that I came up with after about an hour listening to Ben.

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In one of the sections, there’s a great stained glass ceiling. For maximum effect, lie down on the floor and look up.

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At the main entrance of the NGV, there’s a glass wall with a curtain of water flowing down, effectively rendering the glass wall semi-opaque.

You might think that doing that and operating the fountain (see the first photo of the NGV) is not in line with the government’s efforts to save water. But they aren’t using tap water. They’re using recycled water, also known as greywater. There’s a sign telling you that. So don’t try to drink the water from the wall and do wash your hands after you’ve touched it. The water looks clear and clean, but you don’t want to know where it came from.

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Live peeps for AUD2 only. I’m wondering how they manage to compete with the Internet.

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Melbourne City Library.

Going back to Flinders Street Station to catch the train to Caryn’s house, we had the time to pay a visit to Melbourne’s City Library. In front of the library is a nice lawn that is almost always packed with people.

You can get your fix for your Internet addiction here. Computers are provided for free to surf the net. The only condition is that you use it for no more than 15 minutes. There’s usually a queue of people waiting for their turn. And since people are generally considerate, you won’t have to wait long.

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Very much like a library.

The library is like a museum as well. There are sections dedicated to the history of Melbourne. A 360 degrees panoramic viewer is available so you can see how Melbourne has developed since the 19th century. Also on display is the story of an infamous outlaw Ned Kelly. If you’re in the city, do drop by the City Library. Admission is free.

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Coming out of the library we saw a tram accident. Speaking of tram accidents, we were actually involved in one. We were traveling on a tram when it stopped at an intersection. Another tram came from behind and rammed into ours. Fortunately, there was no damage done and we resumed our journey.

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Crossing train tracks is allowed as long as the gates are not down.

For dinner Caryn invited us over to have a BBQ with her family. The weather was perfect for a BBQ and during summer the sun doesn’t set until late so we could have our dinner outdoors.

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Clockwise: Tzy Shih, Adrian, Caryn and me. What you cannot see in this photo is the beef that has been grilled to perfection, leaving the insides juicy and tender. Goes well with the red wine.

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Caryn and her sister has skills that will put Luke Skywalker into early retirement.

After a scrumptious dinner consisting of beef, lamb, potatoes, lots of greens, spaghetti, homemade ice-cream, and lots of other stuff which I can’t recall now, we overstayed until over 1am playing Taboo which is now my new favorite game. But we actually lost to Caryn and her sisters. Very long story.

Anyways, this summed up a very good day indeed. Special thanks to Caryn and her family for having us over for a wonderful dinner and evening. And thanks to her dad for sending us back after we overstayed till the trains stopped running. It was really good to see everyone again.

Next: We have a car! Continue reading

Melbourne and Sydney Trip 2008: Boxing Day

Boxing day sale is a sale not to be missed in Australia because they’ll be clearing off stuff that were not sold before Christmas. So you’re bound to get great bargains there. However, you need to be there very early to queue up. And these sales aren’t exactly safe. Just look at the crowd:

Woke up at 11+ so it was probably useless to go for the sale. We headed on to Parliament Station instead of Melbourne Central so we can have a good look at their long escalators.

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The Parliament Station was so far underground that they had to provide escalators because it would be near impossible to climb the steps. Imagine half of Batu Caves.

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And it is only proper that the Parliament of Victoria is located right in front of the Parliament Station.

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Walking down (south) Spring Street will bring us to Melbourne City Museum. Unfortunately it was closed on Boxing day.

Right behind the City Museum is the Treasury Gardens. To the east of that, separated by Lansdowne Street, is the Fitzroy Gardens, which is where we will find the James Cook’s cottage.

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Cook’s Cottage.

This was Captain Cook’s parents’ house where he grew up in. The house was transported from England to Melbourne and assembled and opened to the public in 1934. As you wander through his house, you’ll see how different life was in the 18th century. See how small the rooms are, how they cure common illness with homegrown herbs and what they talk about over dinner in the olden days.

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A typical bedroom. There were no 50″ TVs, Wiis or Playstations at that time so the bedroom is just used for sleeping. Size wasn’t a real problem because people during that time probably spend more time outdoors.

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People from all over the world have been here!

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The Cook Family. Yes, my inner most secret desire is to be a girl. Even the lady who took this photo commented on how nice my hair was =.=

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Came across this graffiti-ed car on our way to the Melbourne Museum.

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Melbourne Museum.

The Melbourne Museum is one of the places that you must visit when you are at Melbourne. It is certainly one of the more interesting museums that I’ve been to. If you bring along your student card, admission is free.

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Hi, I’m a PC. And I’m a Mac.

The Melbourne Museum has a large variety of exhibitions on so there’s something for everyone. While we were there, we saw the CSIRAC, the very first computer that was built in Australia. Like most early computers, it was big, slow and tedious to work with. Instructions had to be entered using punched cards. And it runs at 1kHz. But a lot of these early computers had very ingenious setups to overcome the lack of chips and integrated circuits during those times. For example, on the CSIRAC, they used long tubes filled with mercury to store data because electrical current flows slower in mercury compared to copper conductors. So in a way the data is “stored” because it travels slowly in the tubes. That’s just crazy man.

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The last line says: The human brain is more complex than the structure of the universe as we currently know it. There’s a whole section dedicated to understanding human emotions, brain functions and psychological diseases. Very interesting exhibit, not only for brain surgeons.

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This display shows how Melbourne city developed with time.

Digressing a little here. It is very interesting to see and read about Melbourne’s history because it shows us a lot on how the city has improved over time. For example, last time the trams used to get electricity from the tracks on the road. But when people step on these tracks, they get a mild electric shock. So now they’ve put the wires overhead instead. And if we go further back in time, we see that the trams were actually being pulled by one long cable running under the road. The tram is not powered. There’s a “gripper” that grips the running cable, thus moving the tram along. To stop, the cable is released. So during those times, tram operators need to have a good knowledge on where the running cables are and where do they end.

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Gelato at Lygon Street.

From Melbourne Museum, we walked about 2 blocks to Lygon Street. I cannot remember from which shop we bought our gelatos from, but I think it’s either Casa Del Gelato or Gelobar. Gelato is the name for Italian ice-cream. They have lots of flavors there to choose from. On a hot day, or even on a cold one, these are irresistible. They have chunky fillings and they taste absolutely fantastic. It’s a must try if you’re in Lygon Street.

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Old buildings in Melbourne University.

Ben brought us to check out the architecture of the buildings in Melbourne University. You will feel safe parking your car at their car parks because they have gargoyles guarding them.

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Vietnamese dinner at Thy Thy at Victoria Street, Richmond.

Next we met up with Gabe and we went over to Richmond (take train to North Richmond Station. Make sure it’s North Richmond, because there’s a East Richmond, West Richmond and just Richmond) to try out some Vietnamese cuisine for dinner. Victoria Street, Richmond is the place to go if you want to feel like you’re in Vietnam. There are Vietnamese restaurants, shops, and convenience stores, everything in one place! The food is unique. You’ll see they have a lot of greens, toge, and lots and lots of onion. A fun and delicious meal.

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Luna Park at St Kilda.

Since it was still bright after dinner (8:30pm), we decided to head on down to St Kilda beach (Just hop on any tram that says St Kilda and you’ll be there in no time). St Kilda is just 15 minutes away from the city center so it’s like a beach in the city. And since it’s so easily accessible, it is filled with people and the night life here is good.

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Watching the sunset.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that at anytime of the day, I can almost always see people consuming alcohol. At the beach, at the parks, in restaurants. It’s like every other drink they drink is alcoholic. I also always see people carrying crates of beer around, something I don’t get to see here in Malaysia everyday. Maybe it’s because drinking is more widely accepted over there.

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Melbourne Central Station.

Managed to meet up with Rong Xiu who’s working at Burke Street before we left for home. 26th December also marks the 4th anniversary of the deadly Tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a million people. May the victims rest in peace.

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