On travelling with strangers.

My adventures in Melbourne and Adelaide saw me having a plethora of emotions while on road trips with people that I had never even met before. I hit it off really well with most of the people I jumped into cars with and with some, it was just plain awkward. I’m referring to those last few hours of driving that gets spent fidgeting just a bit more or turning up the music so the silence in the car isn’t too deafening.

So, for new travellers, here’s my 2-cents.

1. People back out and cancel on you all the time. When some plans get cancelled, other plans take shape. So being open and flexible is the key. My plan to head to Werribee Gorge State Park in Melbourne fell through the night before while the Couchsurfing website was down for maintenance. Luckily, someone posted on a closed Facebook group (thanks to Miranda, I got added in) that they had empty seats in the car for a trip to do the 1000 steps instead. And the rest, of course, is history.

2. Although travel might be the common thread holding the 5 of you, it’s very very likely that you may end out of topics to talk about by the end of the day. To prepare for scenarios like this, make sure the stereo of your (otherwise falling apart) car works. Trust me, you’ll thank me when this actually happens.

3. Be spontaneous! I cannot stress this enough, because you are almost never gonna have a backpacker who plans adventures by the minute, let alone, by the hour. Everyone just jumps into the car and wants to have a ball of a time. It almost doesn’t even matter if destination A changes to F. Everyone is in it for good laughs. And, of course, free drinks are a bonus. 😉

4. Have “the money talk” at the start of the day. Finances are always a sticky business BUT setting the budget right before anything even begins is the crux. There is, unfortunately, no two ways about this. It helps ensure that everyone is in the same page, or in this case, car and avoids disputes on who is gonna burn a hole in their pocket at the end of the trip.

5. Let your stereotypes go. No two French people are gonna be the same, and no two Canadians are gonna be the same, so whatever your previous experiences are with certain nationalities, let them go. You either click with your travellers, or you don’t, and usually it has absolutely nothing to do with which part of the world they are from/have lived in.

These are my favourite 2 pictures from my most spontaneous road trip ever in Adelaide! We planned on heading to Coorong National Park, only to realise you had to have a 4WD, so we detoured to Barossa Valley for (free) wine tasting and ended the day catching sunset at Mt. Lofty Summit. Photo on the right is me having a good laugh over literally nothing with my favourite road trip buddies, Melissa (Canadian), Clare (British) and Rebecca (German).

So now, go forth and plan your own adventures! Till next time, travel safe!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

St. Kilda/Brighton lovin’.

Shall begin my year with photos taken from one of my favourite places in Melbourne. It was a good Monday spent enjoying fish and chips with a sea of blue before me.

 

 

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

 

1000 steps, Kokoda Memorial Walk.

For those of you not quite in shape or familiar with Melbourne’s Kokoda Memorial Walk, I’m pretty sure I’ve already put you off by mentioning… 1000 steps! But, trust me, although I kinda died doing this, I’m so glad my other road trip plans got cancelled so that I could jump into the car with 4 other couch surfers to conquer this uphill (no pun intended) hike! Really thankful Declan organised this event, for I’m pretty sure, I wouldn’t have gone ahead for this hike on my own otherwise.

This popular spot in Dandenong Ranges is a tribute to Australian soldiers who fought and lost their lives in the real Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, in World War II. The exhaustion you feel when you reach the top is probably just a fraction of what those soldiers would have felt. Along the trail are plaques depicting, lives of some Australian soldiers, who died in the battle.

Happy faces BEFORE the climb!

   The beginning of….1000 steps

AFTERMATH!

 

Few things to note:

1. The incline is STEEP. So, have enough fluids with you! Unless, of course, you are sprinter/marathoner/etc.

2. Choose a good weather day. You don’t want to be stuck half way through the climb under scorching sun or wet weather. Also, weekend mornings are busy periods with runners, so late mornings or past mid-day would be advisable, if you’re planning on doing this hike at your own pace.

3. Wear proper shoes! I cannot emphasise this enough. It’s not a slope. Unless, of course, you are avoiding the steps and going the reverse direction. The usual way is to climb up via the steps and come back down via (rolling) down the slope. It’s about 4km and takes slightly over an hour for a person with average fitness level.

4. Sorry to disappoint you, but, there is absolutely no view from up there. There is no perfect Instagram worthy photo moment and such. It’s just the satisfaction of completing it that makes this hike memorable. So, don’t bother with heavy cameras while you’re climbing. It’s not going to be worth lugging at all, trust me.

5. Good news is, there aren’t 1000 steps, it’s just under 800. Yay?!

6. Walking 100m past the top of the trail you’ll be greeted with a cute little signboard. (refer to below image)

After completing the hike and catching your breath, heading to Sky High Mount Dandenong would be your best bet. Undeniably, Sky High offers one of the best views of Melbourne’s skyline. So, ending off the day (hopefully you are here during sunset) will be pretty awesome.

But, before enjoying the view at Sky High, I’ll suggest stopping by Pie In The Sky at Olinda for some piping hot meat pies. I’m not a big fan of meat pies, but they definitely have got some good stuff going on in there. So, be sure to stop by for dine in or take aways.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Melbourne’s Collingwood/Fitzroy explored.

Royal Exhibition Building

Having stayed in Collingwood/Fitzroy area in Melbourne for a month, it’s safe to say, I’ve done quite a bit of exploration of what this hipster town can offer! I definitely would recommend this area to stay at, for those of you looking to explore the heart of Melbourne during your stay. Less than 5 minutes away by tram from Parliament station, getting into CBD is pretty convenient. Apart from it’s close proximity to CBD, here’s a couple of reasons why you should consider Collingwood/Fitzroy area to stay at!

1. Heart of cafes and good food!

Apart from the hearty brunch places I shared in my previous post, there are so many good food places to check out in this area you will be spoilt for choices! Trippy Taco at Gertrude Street for possibly the best quesadillas in town! Along Smith Street, you have Huxtaburger for your burger fix, Pabu Grill & Sake for your Japanese cravings and Messina for undoubtedly the best gelato in town! The queue at Messina on Friday/Saturday nights can easily stretch way past the doors, so I think that speaks for itself how good the gelato is.

2. Brunswick Street!

This street deserves a special mention, not only for boasting Little Creatures Dining Hall, but also for being home to the many awesome eateries, coffee houses and quirky little shops to spend afternoons browsing in.

For those of you not familiar with Little Creatures, it is Australia’s homegrown craft beer. I got a chance to visit the brewery in Geelong, which is an hour away from CBD, so a dining hall right next to where I stay, is heaven on earth. If you’re interested in visiting Geelong for Little Creature’s brewery, please visit my previous post here.

There are coffee houses like Jasper Coffee and Atomica Caffe to get good coffee to kick start your day. Jasper Coffee also sells coffee beans if you are looking to brew coffee from the comfort of your home.

 

For chocolate lovers, San Churro will be your paradise! From churros to truffles to chocolate shakes, you name it, they have it!

3. Yoga & Healing!

 

Only when you are away from home do you begin to pay (some)attention to your soul and body. Well, at least for me, that remains quite true. I’m glad I stayed walking distance away from Yoga Studio & Healing Centre at Gertrude Street, so I couldn’t really come up with more excuses not to attend a class or two. I spent a Sunday morning winding down with a restorative workshop and it felt amazingly therapeutic. Restorative workshops run on a monthly basis for AUD 20.

For information on classes and schedules: http://www.gertrudestreetyoga.com.au/index.php

4. Adrenaline pumping pilates classes!

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Situated perfectly amidst all the cafes and restaurants in Brunswick Street is KX Pilates! I found out about this place purely by chance while I was on the tram one afternoon. I googled them up and realised they had an introductory offer of 5 classes for AUD 50 (valid for 2 weeks). It was just a matter of time before I attended my first pilates class and got some muscles working! It’s definitely worth purchasing this offer if you are a newbie to pilates. I definitely would have continued on with regular classes if I was in Melbourne longer.

Also, there are many KX Pilates outlets all over Melbourne, so fret not, if you are not in/near Fitzroy.

For information on classes and schedules: http://www.kxpilates.com.au/

5. Festivals!

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If you are as lucky as me, your neighbourhood can transform into a colourful street party! The Hispanic Latin American Street Festival/Johnston Street Festival happened over the weekend of 15th and 16th November 2014. This annual festival offers live entertainment with DJs spinning Latin rhythms, free dance classes of various dance styles and food, glorious food!

Have you been sold now, why Collingwood/Fitzroy area is perfect to stay and party at!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Lentil As Anything.

I got introduced to Lentil As Anything by Miranda, a friend I met on Couchsurfing. Tucked away in Abbotsford convent in Melbourne, this is another one of those things I managed to discover when I was there last month. I loved the quiet, self-sufficient community within the convent vicinity that makes, almost anyone, feel right at home.

  

 

 

 

 

 

It was a real pity I learnt about Lentil As Anything closer to the end of stay in Melbourne. Otherwise, I would have wished to volunteer my time at Lentil’s with Miranda and her team. The food, although vegetarian, is just amazing!

There is also another Lentil As Anything outlet at St Kilda. Perfect place to chill at for a meal or to share conversations with after a swim.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Wednesdays at Queen Victoria Night Market.

After a whirlwind of a week long adventures in Melbourne and in Adelaide, I’m (trying) to settle into the comfort of my 4 walls at home. Barely 8 hours since I’ve been awake and I’m turning into a restless monster. I’m glad to be off for another adventure in less than 30 hours. So for now, I’ll start doing up posts of my adventures in Australia to relive the moments again.

It’s Wednesday today and if you are in Melbourne, Queen Victoria Night Market is the place to be! Running every Wednesday until 25th March 2015 (excluding Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve) from 5pm to 10pm, this market offers more than just food. From jewellery to collectors items to fabrics, QV market has it all – to offer something exciting to almost everyone.

Numerous food stalls to choose from.

 Amazing Sangarias with red/white wine for AUD 8.

photo 1Live music to soak into the atmosphere of the market.

 

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Phillip Island’s penguin party!

Just to backtrack to my previous post on my day trip to Wilsons Promontory, while driving back to city, my friends and I decided to stop by Phillip Island to enjoy the famous Penguin Parade. You’ll be surprised to know, Phillip Island is visited by 3.5 million people annually!

For those of you not familiar, Penguin Parade is basically a chance for you to experience the beauty of little penguins coming ashore in groups and returning to their homes during sunset. Phillip Island is home to one of the largest penguin colonies in Australia.

It was really an interesting experience to see these cute little things cluster together and scurry into their homes. General viewing adult tickets costs AUD 23.80. There is a Penguin Parade mobile app that provides you with the daily arrival time of penguins. How awesome!

 

Apart from the Penguin Parade, The Nobbies (seal rocks) is something worth heading to Phillip Island for as I’ve heard. The Nobbies offers spectacular coastal viewing from the boardwalk and lookout points. Also, doing a few laps round the Grand Prix circuit or relaxing in coastal town of Cowes might be other reasons Phillip Island is worth heading to for. On the way towards Phillip Island, just before the bridge, you can get yourself good fish and chips in San Remo.

I didn’t have much time to explore Phillip Island beyond the Penguin Parade, but I must say it was definitely worth the travel. Given more time, I’ll definitely explore Phillip Island to a larger extent as I’m sure it has more to offer me apart from cute little penguins. 😉

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Geelong explored.

Geelong is a perfect sea side town for a day trip out from Melbourne’s CBD. Located just 75km away from the city, it wasn’t difficult at all to get there. Again, thanks to Couchsurfing, I met Wouter, who tagged along with me for this trip. We met at Southern Cross station just slightly after 9am to catch the V-Line train right down to Geelong station. The ride was about an hour and the fare with return costs about AUD 16.

Tip: Do check the timetable in advance for train departure timings, as we ended up waiting nearly 45 mins to catch the 10am train. But, we had enough time to squeeze breakfast in, so all’s good.

Another Couchsurfer, Kai, who lives in Geelong, managed to pick us up from the train station and we drove right down to waterfront area and spend her time till lunch with us. Highly recommend meeting up with her if you’re in Geelong.

 

Apart from The Carousel, the bollards are highly iconic of the waterfront stretch. Each bollard is actually a representation of the different occupations, people that lived in Geelong back in the days, held. So, for example, the bollards on the right in the above image, represent Geelong Baths Swimming Club.

These bollards represent Volunteer Rifle Band. The first band concert was performed in Geelong Botanic Gardens in 1861. Along the entire stretch of the Waterfront, there are 10 Bollards scattered from the Western Beach till the Eastern. Due to their size and sheer beauty, you definitely cannot miss them as you walk or cycle by.

We stopped for lunch after an hour or two of wandering around. What’s a visit to a sea side without some fish and chips to complete the whole experience with!

The weather didn’t look too good after lunch so we decided to head indoors. On a better day, I would have wanted to head further south down towards Queenscliff. There is a ferry service between Queenscliff and Sorrento. And it would have been quite an experience going across via ferry and coming back to Melbourne City via Mornington Peninsula. (refer to the Google Maps image below) But oh wells, another time.

 

Our next stop with one of main attractions in Geelong, National Wool Museum. One of the galleries was closed for maintenance/renovation works, hence we managed to get ourselves in with child tickets for just AUD 4.50.

 

Our walk around was a fascinating insight into the life and times of the shearers, wool classers and the folk who worked at the numerous woolen mills in Geelong.

After the museum, we wandered into a vintage market just across the road for a bit, before making our way to our highlight of the day, the Little Creatures Brewery. It was a bit of a challenge getting there from where we were, but with Google Maps and PTV, no place is ever too hard to get to right? Sitting just next to South Geelong Station, at the end of Swanston Street, this brewery is a must visit even if you are not huge on beers.

Our timing when we reached the brewery was good because we managed to have a pint before the start of a guided tour around the brewery. The guided tour run daily at 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.

There was free beer sampling (1o different types) right after the 45 minute guided tour. Oh, did I mention the tour was totally free! How awesome! My favourite was the Little Creatures Pilsner.

This brewery was my first experience and Wouter’s nearly tenth, but safe to say, both of us enjoyed our visit and Little Creatures is easily one of the top few breweries for Wouter.

It was definitely a well spent the day exploring Geelong!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Road Trip to Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Living in a city as packed as Melbourne, can get tiring after a while. So, one plus of living in a country with so much land mass is that, you can do road trips every now and then. I gathered some friends (thanks to Couchsurfing), rented a car and scooted off to one of Victoria’s most loved places last week. It was amazing to reconnect with nature and be away from the hustle and bustle of city life and people, in general.

There is something quite liberating when you’re on the road towards an unknown adventure. You immerse yourself in the scenery that surrounds, sing along to the tune your ipod is blasting, wind down the windows and let the wind mess your hair up. For a moment, all the worries on your shoulder disappear and you feel free.

We set off from Melbourne CBD area slightly before 9am and reached Wilsons Prom close to 12 noon, after a stop at Foster for some take away lunch. From Foster (a town close to the national park) it was about a 20-minute drive, before the “Welcome to Wilsons Promontory National Park” sign greeted us. 🙂

This shot wasn’t actually taken from a proper look out point but it was just too scenic for me to drive past without pulling over. This view definitely made up for 3-hour drive. And, mind you, this is just the beginning of how scenic the national park actually is.

Pitstop #1: Squeaky Beach

If you’re wondering why the beach is called squeaky beach it’s because when you rub your feet/shoes against your sand it really does squeak! Need proof? Watch this. Squeaky beach is probably one of the most pristine and beautiful beaches you can visit. This is a must see!

Pitstop #2: Tidal River

Tidal river is a very popular camping ground for both locals and travellers. If you’re not a fan of camping, there are also cabins or group lodges for you to spend the night in, before you continue on exploring the rest of the park. For more information, you can visit, http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/wilsons-promontory-national-park/things-to-do/tidal-river-accommodation.

The tranquility and serenity that surrounds this area is unlike any another. This was a perfect spot – we sat by the river, had our lunch and chit-chatted about all our (crazy) travel adventures.

Pitstop #3: Mt. Oberon

 

The Mount Oberon summit walk (6.4 km, 2-way), while rather long and not exactly easy, offered epic views of the Tidal River and surrounding areas. Apparently, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Tasmania! Majority of the climb, up to the summit is a wide footway with compacted gravel. So, despite the steady incline, it was quite manageable (even with my fitness level).

At the end of this management vehicle track, a mobile phone tower greets you. Just continue on, past the tower and you’ll find a final set of staircase leading to the summit. Keep going because from this point you’re only about 10-15 minutes away from a scenic view. Please exercise caution while climbing this flight of steps, as it is mainly granite boulders that you are stepping on. During wet/misty weather conditions it may get a bit slippery.

The feeling of satisfaction of getting to the top after a 1 hour hike was amazing. We dropped our backpacks and just sat down, to have a moment to take the view before us in. Note that, it can get cold and windy at the summit, even during summer months. After all, you are 558m above sea level!

 

Featuring my international friends, Phoebe (HK) and Tanechka (France)

After the hike, we jumped back into the car and wanted to continue on exploring the rest of the island. We had begun our exploration in an anti-clockwise manner, so next up was towards Roaring Meg and The Prom Lighthouse. Only then, did we discover this point was the most inland in the park we could go by car.

We didn’t have much choice to do another other hikes as they were all beyond 3 hours, 1-way. Since we were left with about 2-3 hours to explore the park, we drove back out while stopping at the other points we skipped along the way. The next pitstop was my personal favourite!

Pitstop #4: Picnic Bay/Whiskey Bay

I think the picture pretty much speaks for itself. This was from the viewing point, in the middle of picnic bay and whiskey bay. After a tiring hike, sitting at this spot and winding down with some good laughs was all worth it, despite the blisters on my feet and cold winds right in my face.

Things To Note:

1. Bring your own food and drinks. I literally just saw only 1 cafe in the entire national park at the visitor centre, located near Tidal River Carpark.

2. The furthest inland you can access by car would be Telegraph Saddle Carpark, which is the base of Mt Oberon summit walk and all other hiking paths. So, you definitely need more time (i.e. overnight hikes) to conquer the national park by foot.

Sealers cove hike – 3 hours (1-way)

Refuge cove hike – 5 hours (1-way)

For more information on overnight hikes: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/514928/Parknote-Wilsons-Promontory-NP-Overnight-Hikes.pdf

3. Check the weather forecast for the day before setting off! We were lucky the day was good for us. You definitely don’t want to be stranded in the middle of a hike when a downpour starts.

4. There is no entrance fee to the National Park. So, YAY! Unless, of course you are spending the night there, then overnight charges apply.

Dollars & Cents:

24 hour car rental (5-seater Mitsubishi) – AUD 66 (Thrifty car rental)

Petrol – AUD 51

Dividing costs by 3 resulted in just AUD 39/person. Plus with food expenses, AUD 50-55 was good for a 1-day road trip to this amazing 125,000-acre national park!

So tell me, when are packing your bags and leaving on a roadtrip?!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

5 types of people that attend Melbourne Cup.

Disclaimer: This post has been written purely for entertainment. If you did attend the races or are planning to next year, do not take any offence. Any resemblance is purely coincidental, or maybe not.  

I was glad to be able to attend the 154th Emirates Melbourne Cup Day held at Flemington Race Courses yesterday. It has always been on my bucket list since its THE event of the year in Melbourne’s annual social calendar. And since I was going to be in town, the sister got us tickets a couple of weeks back.

Adult tickets are AUD 74 while students can enjoy a bit of savings and pay just AUD 60. I’d suggest getting student tickets if you can pass off as one, as in the crowd, chances of getting stopped for student ID are pretty slim.

Type #1: Reputable high society people 

The important people of the event who actually know what’s going on and follow the races. After all, their dollars are at stake.

Type #2: The other group of high society people

Don’t get me wrong, they are important people in the society too. But, they go merely for the sake of societal pressure. They have no knowledge and, probably, no interest at all to spend the day looking at horses gallop. They rather be home getting their nails done. They are the ones that are glad Cup Day is yearly affair. The whole affair to them is a plain chore.

Type #3: Fake high society people

The normal, ordinary people with everyday lives and everyday jobs. But, they make it a point to religiously go for every Melbourne cup just for the plain fun of it. Fancy dresses, overpriced fascinators, heels that kill the feet. The affair is totally worth it, they say!

Type #4: Social media junkies

They are the ones who attend just to check in, take selfies, spam your newsfeed and people watch. They dress up just to make their presence felt in the online world and rub it in. Well, hey, once a year event and THE event of the year in Melbourne, why pass up on the chance yea?

Type #5: Party crashers

They are the ones tagging along with a bunch of friends just to enjoy a couple of free beers and laugh hysterically.

Well, I am definitely a bit of type 3 and 4 (how embarrassing). But, hey, it was my first (and probably last) time at the races! Coupled with awesome company and perfect sunny weather it was a wonderful day, I must say. I am glad when I got to the TAB counters the race I was trying to bet on had ended. It was really saddening to hear Admire Rakti fighting on to stay alive minutes after racing. By the end of the day, Melbourne Cup 2014 saw 2 horses losing their lives. It would probably take a couple of decades before Melbourne Cup is no longer an annual talk of the town. But, the least, you and me can do is to stop betting on this poor horses, which race at the expense of their own lives, for our pure entertainment and fuel this cruel industry. I will also, not be attending future Cup Days so Melbourne Cup, done and dusted.

I’ll let the photos do all the talking. Feel free to categorize the people or just be jealous of how much fun I had. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.