Monday, July 24, 2017

Food, Shopping and Moving around in Melbourne

Melbourne is a huge food-junction. We can get food from all around the world in the city. We can choose to step into worldwide franchises such as McD, KFC, or Hungry Jack (Burger King in Malaysia) with more or less standardized food and taste (but with cheaper prices),  or we can just step into any eatery of your choice along the street.

Eateries with nice environment are scattered around Melbourne. We can choose either to take a seat or take away.

For McD, the burgers served in Australia had more or less the same taste with burgers served in Malaysia.

If you are staying somewhere around the city center, the arcades, Southbank and Yarra Promenade along Yarra River are the places that we can hunt for nice food. Food courts can be found in Crown Towers, Melbourne Central and other major shopping malls. In Melbourne, the food, especially seafood were fresh, and the taste was good. The price wise was fair, as long as we didn't convert it back to Malaysian Ringgit (especially to Malaysians). Well, we would like to share some photos of the food in Melbourne. We were lucky to have Uncle Tony bringing around to get nice food in Melbourne.

We tried a few dishes at the alley leading to Block Arcade- paella (upper left), chicken risotto with cheese (upper right), cheese cake (lower right), and smoked tuna pizza. The food looked tempting and tasted nice. In Melbourne, dessert is always served together with ice-cream.

Malaysian Kitchen served food in Malaysian style... certified by both of us. The restaurant is located at Doncaster Road (upper left). We tried several dishes, including lady's finger (upper right), fried squid (lower right) and beef served on hot plate. The portion was not big, but the taste was nice and really exquisite. If you wish to get some Malaysian food in Melbourne and you don't mind to drive far away from Melbourne city, you should go to Malaysian Kitchen. However, it's always good if you could book the seats for any restaurant at Melbourne to avoid disappointment. At Melbourne, the restaurants don't open everyday.

Malaya Inn is located at Village Ave, Doncaster, was another Chinese restaurant we visited in Melbourne. The restaurant was big (upper left), and we tried a few dishes including pork (upper right), tofu (lower right), and fried chicken. The taste was good, but we prefer the Chinese food at Malaysian Kitchen.

We had Australian style breakfast everyday, prepared by our aunt- fresh eggs, bread, bacon, pasta, together with fresh milk, baked bean, pan fry sliced pork, and coffee. The food was really nice, and tasted great! The food was prepared exclusively for us, with a lot of love. :)

Shopping malls are scattered all around Melbourne city. Melbourne Central is a hub for mass-transit system and shopping center. There is a well preserved shot tower located at the center of the mall. Hundreds of shops, selling clothes, food, skin care products, books, sport equipment, and many more. 

Some huge shopping malls are located in residential area, far from city area, such as Coles and Chemist Warehouse might be available in these shopping malls. We bought chocolates, fruits, and beverages from Coles, and skincare and health products from Chemist Warehouse. We found that the items with special promotion like chocolates were quite cheap.

When we were walking down the street, we can look for the promotional billboards (upper left), or take a look on the products or the show by street artists (upper right), or at the booths along the street (lower right). Don't forget to slow down the pace and take a look at the statues along the street as well.

The best way to go around Melbourne City area is by following the free tram service. Bus and taxi are available too. When we travel out of the city, mrt, transit bus, and taxi can be used. We travelled around with our uncle's car most of the time. However, we did grab the chance to try the mrt and taxi when we were going to Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary. 

For mrt, the fare could be paid only by MyKi card only. The card had to be scanned at the departure and arrival stations. So please make sure you have the card ready before you go for mrt. The fare and information about the mrt line and destinations can be obtained from the official website of  Public Transport Victoria.

For taxi, the fare can be estimated by the Victoria Taxi Fare Estimator. From our experience, the estimator has an error of plus minus ASD 5. All the taxi should charge according to the meter in Victoria. Please do not use any taxi service without meter.

Intracity tram service is perhaps, the cheapest way to move around Melbourne city area (upper left). What we need to do is, get a map, find a station (upper right), and hoop into one of this electricity powered tram. We saw a few bicycle-for-rent booths around, but we didn't really know how it worked (lower right). Anyway, walking around Melbourne City is convenient. The street is safe, drivers are obedient and polite, and people are moving in a relaxing manner.  

There are several mrt lines in Melbourne, which a few of them extends far beyond the city. So we need to get familiar with the system to avoid confusion. Beware that not all mrt stop at every station. It's better to ask the officer-on-duty or locals before hop on to any mrt. The mrt stations are basically easy to access, clean, and safe. The stations are less crowded after peak hours (upper left). The mrt is convenient for us to travel in group (upper right). Taxi and transit bus were available at some of the stations, such as Lilydale (lower row), but might not available at some stations at residential areas. If you are stuck at the station with no taxi or transit bus, try to ask the officer-on-duty on how to call up one.

MyKi card can be purchased from the shop with myki signage.

We stayed comfortably with our uncle and aunt in Bulleen area, which by car, could reach city center within 30 minutes. If you don't plan to drive by yourself, you should stay somewhere nearby the mrt stations, or within the city. With the mass transportation system within your reach, you can access to other places without much problem.

Staying in central business district, such as hotels along Flinders Street keep us close to the places of interest and activities in Melbourne. Homestays with easy access to public transportation, especially mrt can be a good choice as well. 

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Uncle Tony, Aunt Mee Ing, and our cousin Harn-Yih for their hospitality, advice, and assistance. 

We will visit Luang Prabang in Laos soon. You can follow us by following our blog or our Facebook page now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanic Garden (Day 4 in Victoria)

Day 4, we went back to Melbourne City again to visit Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanic Garden. Shrine of Remembrance is located at Birdwood Avenue, opposite of Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne, around 1.2 kms south of Flinders Street Railway Station and Federation Square.

Shrine of Remembrance was built as a monument to commemorate the Australians who participated in the war, armed conflicts, or peacekeeping operations. The shrine was completed in 1934, served as a memorial to those who died in World War 1. The shrine was designed by two local Australians, with the inspiration from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and built with the fund raised from the public. Since then, more memorials were added to the shrine. The shrine opens 9 am - 5 pm daily (closes on Good Friday and Christmas). The admission is free.

We arrived at the shrine at noon. We strolled around the compound of the shrine first, before we entered the main hall. The main hall houses 40 Books of Remembrance- a list of the soldiers participated in World War 1, and a plaque states "Greater Love Hath No Men" (a part of John 15 verse 13). From the main hall, we climbed up to the observatory platform to see the beautiful scenery around the shrine. We went down to the lower level to see the crypt and the exhibition hall after that. We left the shrine at around 1:15 pm and continued our trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at Melbourne Gardens (or Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne).

There are numerous sculptures erected around the shrine, including The Man with The Donkey which depicting the real story of a stretcher John Simpson Krikpatrick who used his donkey to carry the wounded from the front line in World War 1 (upper left), the Driver and Wiper commemorating the war fought at Ypres (upper right), and the angelic sculptures (lower right). We could see some school children having their activities at the shrine.
There are several paths lead to the main hall of the shrine.

The staircase to the main hall.

School children were gathering at the center of the main hall with the plaque "Greater Love Hath No Men". Sunlight will shine directly on the plaque at certain time of a day. Photography is allowed in the shrine (with no flash). Out of respect, we decided not to post more photos we took in the shrine.

Scenery of Melbourne city center from the shrine.

Another part of Melbourne city.

Medals with each of them representing 100 Victorians who lost their life in military operations since World War 1. These medals are exhibited at the medal gallery at the exit of the shrine.

Royal Botanic Gardens at Melbourne is located opposite of the shrine. We just need to cross the Birdwood Avenue to reach the main gate of the gardens. As the name suggests, the site is a collection of several types of gardens, including the Australian native forest walk, roses, cacti, succulent gardens, and the collections from different countries. Visiting hours of the gardens are from 7:30 am until sunset daily.

Well, one can stay in the gardens for whole day. For us, strolling around center lawn alone took us around 1 hour 15 minutes. Then, we left due to the falling rain. There was only one cafe in the gardens (another one was located at the main entrance), so it will be good to bring our own drinks and maybe, some snacks. Good walking shoes and umbrella are required too. The visitor transportation is provided (garden explorer) with extra fee and prior booking.

The Royal Botanic Garden Victoria at Melbourne is located opposite of the Shrine of Remembrance. 

We can see visitors gathering and enjoying the cooling weather and colours of autumn.

There are several cottages around the area. The one in this photo was built in 1886.

View by the lake with water birds walking around the beautiful lawn.

The scenery of central lawn, with "overgrown" sky scrappers. 

Nice walking path.

Plants available around the gardens.

For us, both Shrine of Remembrance and Botanic Gardens are must visit places in Melbourne. For better experience, a more relaxing and slower pace is recommended. And, we would suggest to visit the shrine first before the botanic garden. 

2:30 pm, we left the botanic garden and continue our trip to shop for souvenirs. We will share our experience about food and shopping in Melbourne in our next post.

Day Trip to Healesville Sanctuary (Day 3 in Victoria)

Healesville Sanctuary is known to visitors as an "all in one" place to see the indigenous animals. The sanctuary is located beside Yarra valley, around 65 kms from Melbourne City. Well, that's the place we visited on our third day in Victoria.

We used public transport to go there. We spent 30 minutes travelling from Surrey Hills Station to Lilydale by mrt, and then another 25 minutes travelling by taxi from Lilydale to Healesville Sanctuary. The mrt fare was AUD 2.80 per trip per pax, while taxi fare was around AUD 49 per trip. The taxi stand was located just beside the mrt station. Just in case, if you cannot find a taxi on your way back from the sanctuary, you can ask for the staff at the sanctuary to get one for you.

We need to purchase myki card to pay the fee at the mrt stations. These card can be bought or topped up at the convenient shop or anywhere with "myki" sign (upper left). The payment for the train can only be made with myki card. Surrey Hill station was quiet (upper right), and there were plenty of empty seats on the train (lower right). The taxi station was around 50 meters away from the Lilydale Station.

The admission fee for Healesville Sanctuary- AUD 32.50 for adult, AUD 16.30 for child, and AUD 29.30 for senior (65 and above). Child will have free entrance on Saturday, Sunday, and public holiday. For senior, we need to show document that can confirm the age, such as identification card, passport, or driving license for discounted ticket. We can buy our ticket online as well at Healesville Sanctuary official website.

When we walked around the sanctuary, we found that the signage were clear, restrooms were clean, and there were designated areas with Wifi connection as well.  These facilities ensure a pleasant stroll in the sanctuary. We reached the sanctuary around 12 pm and stayed until 5 pm.

From the ticket counter, we started with the exhibits of emus and cassowary, then echidnas and koalas, followed by kangaroos, Australian Wildlife Health Centre, and platypus. We took our lunch at Pavilion Cafe before going to animal of night exhibits and had a close-up activity with a cute wombat. After that, we continued our visit to brush-tailed rock wallabies, local birds, and goannas. Again, we took a rest at picnic area beside Pavilion Cafe before walked through reptile house, flight arena, and wetland aviary. We visited dingo before leaving the sanctuary. There are several aviaries  and animal houses scattered around the sanctuary. We can visit these places when we walk pass the sites.

There are three eateries in the sanctuary, selling food and beverages with reasonable price. Pavilion Cafe was the one that located at the center of the sanctuary which we passed by it a few times. The food there was nice. There are plenty of picnic tables and resting area around the cafe. The cafe opens daily from 11 am to 2 pm.
Entrance to Healesville Sanctuary.

Tuesday afternoon, we didn't have to queue at ticket counter. Well, if we wish to have close up activity with certain animals, we need to buy the tickets at the counter as well. For wombat, we paid AUD 20 per person for a 15-minute session.

Well, we might think that this is how a koala should do all the time. They sleep 16 - 18 hours a day.

Lucky for us, we saw  a few koalas actively moving around, eating and climbing up and down. 

Echidna, spiny anteater was moving around the nicely decorated exhibit. It is a kind of egg-laying mammal- monotreme. Another monotreme is platypus. So both monotremes are available only in Australia.

Kangaroos were tame. We could pet them if they came close to the main walking track.

Australian Wildlife Heath Centre showed us how the injured animals were treated. The center had an operation theater where we could actually see how the animal operation was done. The veterinary was conducting an operation for an eagle during our visit. That was the first time for us to see an eagle lying on the operation bed.

The 15 minute close up session with a cute wombat was more than a staff that holding a wombat for us to take photo. We were in fact interacting with a cute free roaming wombat in an enclosure.

The wombat was visitor-friendly. It just walked around the visitors, craving for petting and cuddling. It would take the shoes as pillow for a short nap as well. According to our guide, the close up session was only available when the wombat was awaken. Sometimes, the wombat would just rolled itself into the blanket and took a nap.

Tasmanian devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial. Tasmanian devil can be found in wild only on Tasmania Island. Although being categorized as nocturnal, the Tasmanian devils in the sanctuary were active during our visit.

Next to Tasmanian devil is the enclosure for wallaby. Like kangaroo, the area is large, with designated walkway for visitors. 

The best part of the wallaby enclosure- the feeding area is at the walkway. So during the feeding area, visitors can actually pet and feed the wallabies. By the way, we are not allowed to bring our own food for animals. The food for wallabies are given by the staff, free of charge.

Several nocturnal animals are kept in dark exhibits, such as platypus (upper left), bandicoot (upper right), potoroo (lower right), and possums. These exhibits are provided with very low intensity of light, to keep the animals active. Well, it was hard to take photo of these animals without flash light- which was strictly prohibited.

There are many types of birds in the sanctuary, including noisy kookaburra (upper left), fast moving helmeted honey eater (upper right), active Australian cockatoos (lower right) and heron of the wetland. 

Dingo is the largest terrestrial predator in Australia (cute dog!).  It is the oldest type of dog in Australia, which the presence of dingo had been drawn on the wall of caves thousand years ago

Pavilion Cafe is a big shack, selling various type of snacks and beverages with reasonable price.

The main pathway is flat and easy to access. For first timer, following the main pathway is a good idea to see all the animals around the sanctuary. Fast tracks can be used if you wish to skip some part of the sanctuary.

Healesville Sanctuary is definitely a must visit place in Victoria. Reason- it is the nearest place for us to see the indigenous animals nearby Melbourne, and the sanctuary is really well-maintained. Well, that was a whole afternoon trip with a lot more walking compared to our Great Ocean Road Trip the day before. If you are animal lover and wish to have a relaxing moment with the animals, more time should be allocated for the trip.

Next, Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance and Botanical Garden. Follow us now.