Last Stop in Australia: Sydney

We started Tuesday with a lovely (…not!) breakfast provided by the Ibis Hotel for 5 bucks per person before returning our car and taking the flight to Sydney. White toast, butter, jam and a tea or coffee was on the menu. We’re somehow a bit fed up with this white toast bread which seems to be everyone’s favorite here (but yeah, American will not be better we heard…). But for once we had at least a bit of fun with this “classical” Aussie breakfast: the pancake machine. Imagine a machine like those producing coffee or hot water with a press on button but for pancakes – pretty funny (and so-so yummy it was). The drop-off of our VW Jetta at the airport was again unspectacular. After a short 2-minute deal we went checking in for our flight and got airborne 60min later. After a flight time of one hour we landed during some thunderstorm weather in Sydney. We were both amazed by the approach since the airport is very close to the city center and we (or at least the boy who always has the window seat) could enjoy some panorama views of the city center. After a bumpy landing we took the train to the center station and walked to our accommodation for the next four nights. We “enjoyed” a romantic walk through all those packed streets with 30kgs luggage and a light drizzle rain for around 20mins before we finally reached our backpackers. Yes, we chose a backpackers again since hotels in Sydney are really a rip-off in our view (bottom rates at, say 120-150$ a night at least?). Anyway, we will be camping in New Zealand for 5 weeks after this so don’t raise the standard too much ya. The room we got was a private double with shared facilities, maybe 10m2 big. Really nothing fancy, a small bed, a dated and rundown shelf & cupboard and stained carpet on the floor but ya, it suits our needs and it saves money. The rest of the day was unspectacular. Since rain was pouring down the entire afternoon we stayed in our room for afternoon/evening and only went out for a lunch and dinner. We were hapresized_IMG_5396py to know that we will be staying at this place for four nights, not because it’s perfectly nice, but because we got tired of checking in and out every day. It may sound ridiculous but travelling got us a bit tired recently. Especially sight-seeing every day, finding a new place to stay every evening, and packing all our stuff before check out the next morning felt like a constant rush.

On Wednesday we enjoyed the luxury not being required to check out and got up late. We then had a brunch at famous Din Tai Fong (a Taiwanese restaurant particularly famous for its fresh dumplings) which was just around the corner (somehow a bit suspicious that all those Asian restaurants are so close by – wondering why YinRu choose this backpackers to stay at…not a bit intended?hm?). After getting refueled with these lovely dumplings and a fried rice we walked a few kilometers and made our way to the circular quay where Sydney’s most iconic opera house and harbor bridge is located at. But there was a guest who stole these two landmarks’ limelight: the Queen Mary 2, a 350m long transocean cruise boat. We were lucky since the second largest resized_IMG_5254cruise boat in the world only arrived in the morning and would be leaving in a few hours. We had a quick chat later on with the security guys and got to know that this boat features space for up to 3’000 guests, hosts more than 10 restaurants, a theater and casino and many other amenities for those willing to pay a cruise price starting at 20’000$ per person for this 113 days around the world trip. We discussed if a world trip like this would not have been something for us. Maybe in 30-40 years? This time definitely not. We continued to browse around the quay, enjoyed some street artists’ shows and ended up at the Sydney Café for a longer break. Located the 5th floor of the customs house, it offers spectacular views of the harbor front, superb food and service. Definitely recommended (by us) although a bit pricey. After resting for almost two hours at the café we put our feet on the streets again, discovered the CBD area, shopped a bit and went back to the harbor front to say bye to Queen Mary 2. It was a unique moment to witness how the boat navigated through Sydneys’ harbor at sunset and how long the echo of her horns could be heard in the entire area. We had an exceptional late lunch at another Taiwanese restaurant near our backpackers (yes, we mainly eat Asian food now, knowing that we cannot cook all those lovely meals in ouresized_IMG_5489r campervan in New Zealand we want to get as much as possible these days). All in all we might have not see as many things as one would usually in one day in Sydney. We enjoyed slowing down a bit, taking more time and not rushing to hunt one sight after another. The presence of Queen Mary 2 though was a true highlight of this day.

Thursday was again another day waking up as late as we wish! How lovely! To start off the day we went for Dim Sum breakfast at Marigold Restaurant. It was a huge restaurant that could easily cater 2/300 people. Well we went there for weekday brunch so there were not so many people but we could imagine that on weekends this place could be pretty booked. It was a traditional Cantonese style Dim Sum and reasonably priced. After getting some shrimp dumplings, shu mai, char seow bao dancing in our stomachs, we walked to Darling Harbour. We had some detour walking there as we were unaware of the construction sites in the area. The sun in Australia is pretty strong so we always make sure we put on sunscreen before walking in the sun for long time (15mins is long without sunscreen we’d say?). Yinru especially is soaking up the UV quite a bit. Not that she minds it but she would probably be recognized as an Indonesian if she were in Malaysia. We went to Sydney Fish Market from Darling resized_IMG_5424Harbour, as this fish market is known as a must-visit here. We could smell the fish from 100meters away and it reminded us of Roman’s mom, as she is not the biggest fan of seafood. The Fish Market instead seems like a Chinatown to us, only worse. The employees of diverse restaurants were almost all Chinese/Asians (only saw one “white” person there)! Tour buses came in with dozens of Chinese all the time. We have nothing against the Chinese but against wasting food and shouting in public…but well lets not go into details. We also saw how lobsters were prepared: they were cut into pieces ALIVE! An employee would take a huge lobster out of a bag, cut the lobster into half while it was still moving! We were so sad and questioned ourselves how cruel we humans are sometimes. Knowing that it is maybe not the right/best thing to do, we still had a small lunch there (instead of some vegetarian restaurant maybe). We then headed back to Darling Harbour and spent some time just observing people around. We initially planned to visit the Sea Life, like a big zoo but for fish etc but decided that it was too expensive. In the evening we met up with a friend from Sydney who we knew from Taiwan, Pamela who showed us a bit of nice bars and happening places in Sydney. We enjoyed sunset view at harbor front and head back to Chinatown for our dinner. We shared a Laksa at a hawker center run by Malaysians at the Sussex Center. By the way, our biggest highlight of the day: We found out today that there was a free bus running in CBD area! Having walked kilometers yesterday as we did not know about this bus, we did feel like we were not the smartest people when we learnt about the bus (but maybe we’re healthier because of these few kilometers of walking?) 😉

resized_IMG_5479TGIF! It is Friday! Well honestly for us, which day of the week does not play a big role as we are basically on holiday EVERDAY 😀 the difference is that on certain days of the week you notice people start drinking in the afternoon, buses run longer and some people seem happier. So you know, ah, it must be Friday! We talked to some people living here and it seems that Work-Life balance is very important to them. We have seen people started drinking at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon so there must be quite some “balance” there. Maybe they have had early shift behind them which could explain the early afternoon drinks, but you get the picture. So on Friday afternoon we saw bars started to get crowded, more traffic and people in city area etc. In Switzerland maybe getting off at 5pm is considered early enough. But of course compared to countries like Korea and Japan Switzerland is quite humane, and Australia is very humane 😉 We started our day off late, wanting more “travel-life-balance” so we took our time, had more time to dine, just enjoyed sitting in a park watching people and birds. A lot of birds. Sea gulls actually. They can be pretty annoying at times. When someone tries to feed them the whole colony would fly towards you! They could also look quite funny too when they fight for territory and make funny noises. Australia, being a hugeee country, also has weird people sometimes, like everywhere else in the world. In Chinese we say “one type of rice feeds hundred types of people”. We have seen a (weird) guy wearing same clothes, standing at the same spot, at circular quay for third day in a row. Each time we passed by we saw him. We also saw another guy, probably homeless and drunk, sitting in the middle of the road and all the cars had to avoid him. So behind the fabulous and relaxed side of Australia, there are also many other sides of Australia yet to be discovered. Highlight of the day was enjoying the sunset at Mrs Macquaries point which overlooked both the landmarks of Sydney: the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. resized_IMG_5578Roman took some amazing shots there. While the man works hard with the camera, the woman was busy being silly singing to the opera (a new theatre had its premier right at Mrs Macquaries point so we could hear everything). We ended the day with a yummy Japanese dinner! Now that is our work-life balance 😉

After travelling in Australia for one month now, we are contended to see what we have seen and it was indeed a very pleasant experience. We have travelled pretty intensively and have yet only seen a small part of this country. The Aussie experience is great and we thank you for the lovely weather, kind people, diversified food and cute animals (kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras are our favorites)! We will see you again, and till then, CHEERS MATE! Next stop: New Zealand.

Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road

First of all, before we continue the blog, we have implemented a new tool to the blog we would like to inform you about. You can now subscribe to our page by submitting your e-mail adress on the righ hand side bar (just drag your eyes a few centimeter to the right) and you will always receive an e-mail as soon as we updated this site…. and now let’s continue with our trip…

On Tuesday we caught our flight at 9am to Melbourne. We stayed at a lovely place that we found on Airbnb for 100$ a night which is 2km away from the airport. It took us less than 10mins to arrive at the domestic terminal. It was the easiest and fastest house door to airport check in experience ever for us: got up at 7am, departed for airport at 7.45, checked in by 8.15 and flew by 9.05! Why can international flights not be as convenient?

We arrived at Melbourne after a 3.5hours flight and a not very smooth landing (during our descent there was a thunderstorm hitting the area)! Hello Mate! We got onto SkyBus, a bus company which operates the airport-city route, and then changed to a mini bus provided by the same company which brought us to our hostel. As we got nearer to the city area, the skyline suggested a different atmosphere than the other side of Australia we have seen for the past two weeks. More skyscrapers, more vibrant, and more Asians too (well, we were told that Sydney would be even more extreme). We got to our hostel located at the busiest area of the city center. As we were used to sharing bathrooms and “privacy” from our camping experience we decided to stay at backpackers in Melbourne (Which is quite a money saver if you compare the rate of roughly 60$ for the two of us per night compared with hotels starting at at least double) to not raise our standard before getting back to camping New Zealand. We had a young Brit as our resized_IMG_4242roommate in our 3 share room. After putting our things in the room, we were so hungry we did not bother to unpack and went directly for food. Fast food, mainly known chains like McD, KFC, Subway, Nando’s can be found on any corner together with many other small independent stores selling the same unhealthy burger, fries, sandwich stuff. We had some fast food (what a surprise) at a weird time at 4.30pm which we did not know if it was lunch or dinner because of three hours difference between Melbourne and Perth and our last meal eaten in plane around 10am. We went for a walk along the Yarra River and enjoyed the sunset. In the evening we saw manresized_IMG_4710y people wearing green (Roman was, coincidentally wearing a green shirt too) and drinking lots of beer to celebrate St Patrick’s day. As old and wise as we were, we decided to skip the party and went back to hostel to sleep early. Haha yap, but early was still not earlier than around 00:00 as every day). We have to admit, age is catching up…

On Wednesday we woke up later than usual, blame it on the time difference :p We even missed the breakfast provided by the hostel (the offer was apparently making your own pancakes and stuff, so it is okay for us to miss it actually). We had dumplings for brunch, 12 steamed and 6 fried. We felt like we were round as dumplings after eating. We visited the Melbourne visitor center which was packed with tourists. The information center was run by many senior volunteers who were helping the tourists at the center. We took a free city tram ride as suggested by the volunteer at the center, passing by the port and docklands in the city. It was a special old tram which had to be operated resized_IMG_4639manually. We saw the driver changing gears every few seconds (the tram did not have the speed of a high speed train, in fact it was a little faster than cycling maybe). There was actually some explanation on tram through loud speakers, but the Chinese ladies next to us were louder than the loud speakers so we ended up hearing them better than the explanation. We alighted at Melbourne Central Station, passing by the Melbourne University and RMIT. We had a Korean lunch (servings were gigantic) and walked around China Town. After lunch we needed some sports so we walked from CBD to the river again. It was shortly after 5pm and we saw dozens of people from rowing clubs busy at riverside installing themselves resized_IMG_4271for rowing activities. We walked along the river and went to the Royal Botanic Garden. A lot of people were doing sports, some jogging in groups, so we joined them (no, we did not). We then enjoyed a view of sun set at War remnants monument. It was a pretty good walk for two or three hours so to reward ourselves we had our dinner at Belgian beer Bar. Roman had the mussels he dreamt of and Yinru a good bargain steak for aud20 (it was a steak night. You know, like ladies’ night at night clubs. Same same but different). It was quite a long and eventful day with quite some walking resized_IMG_4685indeed! We both felt it in our legs, not because we were not sporty, but because we were stupid enough to wear our sandals! Yes it was all because of the wrong shoes. By the way Roman had been here 7years ago and he had visited some places already. He was just kind enough to visit certain places again just for YinRu… <3 how lovely J

We were having our rental car from Thursday until 24 of March. Yeah! We checked out from hostel and went to meet Yinru’s friends for breakfast. A small world it is, Yinru had not meet these two friends of hers (they are a couple) for some years and now they were going to meet up in Melbourne. After a good catch up with the friends and getting to know that the restaurant owner happened to be Malaysian too, we went to pick up resized_IMG_4854our car. Roman was as happy as a boy who got his present on Christmas Day as he got to drive the sporty car VW Jetta after driving a bulky campervan for two weeks. It is like comparing a big fat man and a sporty young man (probably not the best example ever, but you get what we mean). We hit on the Great Ocean Road with the Jetttaaaaa!! Great Ocean Road would be a very difficult drive for us as we would be probably stopping every few kilometers to take photos. We made it at least to Lorne before sunset the same day. The hostel we chose had a lively, family like atmosphere. Some young guys were staying there for a longer period of time as they worked at a supermarket nearby. One of them was a south German and he found it really funny to hear Yinru speaking German because it is rare resized_IMG_4807that “someone from Malaysia speaks German with a Swiss accent”. We had our emergency laundry done in a small basin in toilet as we realized that Roman did not have any “intimate wear” left…Later we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and a pretty good Italian pasta dinner. In the night it was cold in the room and poor Roman had allergies as the backpackers provided only wool blanket (one could still feel the sheep when getting in contact with these blankets).

We continued our journey towards the 12 Apostles on Friday after having a breakfast at a “blanket tree picnic” (that is the name if not mistaken). We bought a wholegrain bread, cucumber, tomato, hummus, some ham and a little bit of cheese to make sandwiches for breakfast and lunch since we missed the opportunity to cook as we had it with the campervan. Having had fastfood for the past few days in Melbourne and on the road, we decided it was time to eat a little bit healthier (in fact we found out that this is nearly the only way of getting healthy diet since not many places offer non-fried-fast food here!). After a healthy breakfast at a cold picnic area we went to visit the Erskine Falls near Lorne. It was a cute little water falls which we thought would be more impressive to look at in winter where there is more rain. Thereafter we went to hunt koalas! There is this place near Kennett River where wild koalas live. It is their natural habitat so they could just be on any tree where you don’t see them. We were lucky enough to spot a few of these little fur balls sleeping on the trees! As you might know, koalas sleep, ehm, quite a lot, say 16-20 hours! So it is very possible that you don’t see an awake one at all. BUT we did see one move from one tree branch to another! Now that must be winning a lottery! Hahaha they were really funny to look at so we had our good time spotting them. Roman spotted tworesized_IMG_4778 and Yin Ru two too (although Roman did not believe with Yinru’s “asian” eyes she could actually see far and clear too) so we were even! After that we drove to Apollo Bay, the next big town along Great Ocean Road. As soon as you get close to the town you would see many tour buses and significantly more traffic. We had our sandwiches (yeah same as breakfast) at a park in town and had fun teasing seagulls with our leftovers. Roman sawresized_IMG_4820 a guy grilling his meat at the free bbq place and he was deeply jealous of him. We continued our journey in the direction of 12 Apostles, making a stop at Cape Otway rainforest. It was a lovely rainforest walk where Yin Ru enjoyed (and annoyed Roman when she was bored) at lot. After that we drove for another hour or so and had a short stop at 12 Apostles, one of the highlights at the Great Ocean Road. As we were there almost at sunset, the stone formations did not appear nice on photos hence we decided to go back there again the next day in the morning. We went to a nearby town called Port Campbell for a night’s stay. We intended to stay at a hostel but since it was the only hostel in town it was crowded and we did not feel like sleeping with 5 other people (7 to a room) so we decided to find another place. After a few tries we finally found our accommodation for the night at a guesthouse. The owner of the guesthouse seemed friendly (and smelled alcoholic…at 6pm) and the place was lovely. We went to town to have dinner and discovered this small run down store located at the gas station which served the best fish and chips ever!! After stuffing ourselves with crispy fish and chips we went back to guesthouse. As it was so quiet we thought the other guests must be sleeping although it was only 8pm so we were talking very softly like we hadn’t for some time. At 10pm-ish the other guests came back (so we could actually talk loud if we knew that) and we had a good chat with John and Rachel from England. They were father and daughter who were travelling together and they were very close to each other. Being British they had tea and coffee before they went to bed. And we had water. Haha!

We woke up on this wonderful double bed (we had not have double bed for some day resized_IMG_4867 resized_IMG_4884as in backpackers you normally get single bunk beds). Rachel and John were already awake and were having their cup of tea. Well ya, they were British. We were supposed to check out at 10am but we were as usual late and checked out at about 10.30am (we sometimes pretend like we don’t know check out is at 10am if nobody told us so, but 10am is usually standard in OZ) as the owner started to clean everything. We went back to 12 Apostles and ponder at its beauty for some time. We found it quite sad that some tourists only went to a place, took a few selfies with their selfie sticks without even looking at the scenery itself, and left again, instead of taking some time to actually look at the scenery, the nature that was right before their eyes. We, on the other hand, resized_IMG_5153made multiple stops at lookout spots that it took us so long to drive a few kilometers. 12 Apostles, London Bridge, the Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands were some of the stops we made. It was stunning to watch these huge waves continuously forming these rock cliffs with such power. We had a take away from the fish and chips place that we discovered yesterday, only ordering fish to have as sandwich for lunch. We had a picnic after a long drive (actually because of all the amazing scenery at lookout points we used 2hours for 15kilometers only). After the Great Ocean Road ended we drove the inland highway in the direction of Melbourne. We had a stop at a lookout point overlooking two volcanic crater lakes in the middle of endless farmlands. The campsite near the lakes was booked out so we ended up staying at a motel instead. It was a resized_IMG_5183pretty old school motel, like one of those where shootings could happen in American movies, smelling/looking weird yet provides everything you need. (Luckily no shooting happened that night or you would not be able to read this now). For dinner our wish to have diet had to be postponed again as we could only find a grill chicken place for dinner at this small town.

On Sunday we left the small town to continue journey in direction of Melbourne, making a detour a through Geelong town and take a ferry from Queenscliff to Mornington Peninsula. We also had a stop at Red Rock, a lookout point overlooking another big MAAR Lake (name for this kind of lakes created by some volcanic activities. pls google for further information on this :p). We had a quick Thai lunch at Geelong and hopped onto a ferry that carried us through the Bay of Phillip to go to Mornington. Unfortunately we didn’t see those dolphins the promised we would see during our boat trip for almost one hour so Yinru was very sad (Roman promised her she would definitely see them before we go home in July). Although we arrived at Mornington Peninsula late on this Sunday afternoon it was still very busy. Apparently this area is one of the main recreational places for Melbournians. The sandy beaches around the Phillip Bay area offer shallow waters to swim, ride boats or just sun bath (Australians really do that resized_IMG_5216although the sun is so aggressive) in front of one of those numerous colorful painted small box houses. We enjoyed some stops to view the bay and totally forgot time. We got into the bigger town, Mornington, pretty late and got stressed by finding accommodation. Since most of the motels were already booked out by 7pm and this area was more like the gold coast offering a playground for the rich people and the Aston Martins, hotels were pretty expensive. In the end we had to check-in at a hotel for a 150 AUD rate per night. We rushed to a drive through to get some food and see the sunset which we missed by a few minutes. A bit upset about our own planning and the stress we had we went back to the hotel after eating a bucket of chicken with fries (which we didn’t enjoy too much). The keys provided for our room didn’t work. After exchanging them we finally got into the room which was not made up. Back to the reception we got moved to another, finally clean room and: WOW, that was big. At least we got some good standard for the money.

On Monday we made our way back to Melbourne city. As it was rainy we decided to stop at a DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) in one of the suburbs to shop some clothes. After two hours spending some money (in fact it was really little – not more than 200 AUD) we met again with Yinru’s friends for lunch. Roman had to drive through the entire Melbourne city and Yinru doing the navigation job. We discovered some very odd traffic rules like the small waiting boxes on road crossings with traffic lights for cars turning right (this is too weird to explain, please refer to the link below to understand. (gosh there is a wiki article for this)). After a delicious Malay food lunch and good chat we drove all the north to our hotel near the airport to rest one night before returning our Jetta and hopping on the flight to Sydney. The endless suburbs were surprising. What seemed to be a stone’s throw away ended in a one hour drive through endless suburb areas with shops, shops and shops everywhere. The budget hotel was nice, small and clean with a funny toilet/shower fully made of plastic that appeared like being in a caravan unit. All in all we enjoyed our Melbourne trip a lot. The city, the 800km trip with our VW Jetta, the Great Ocean Road, the lakes, the reunion with friends, the hostels/hotels/motels/guesthouses/whatever-you-name it, thank you!

Actual Travel Route Victoria