Australia was never really at the top of our list of travel destinations. We had no clue what to do in Melbourne and Sydney, other than to see landmarks like the Sydney Opera House. Prior to booking tickets to both cities Down Under, we had planned for Osaka or Beijing. Somehow the stars aligned for this trip largely because:
- The Japanese Super Rugby team, Sunwolves, were playing a game in Melbourne
- Scoot offered good return flight deals to these cities
My wife and I had not been to Australia before, so we figured why not go to a destination where navigation will be relatively easy? Both cities are very well developed and English-speaking, which would make it fuss-free compared to Japan and China. So off we went!
Anyhow, here are 7 highlights of the trip:
1. True to Australia’s reputation for livability, both Melbourne and Sydney (to a smaller extent) are super tourist-friendly
Travel from the airport to our accommodation was a breeze. Going around the city is a breeze. There aren’t folks trying to get you to ride their private-hire transport services. There aren’t folks hustling to sell you stuff on the streets.
What’s better still: there is FREE WIFI everywhere! Wifi is available on public transport, on the streets, in malls. It’s safe to not get a sim card or wifi egg prior because of the extent of free wifi in the cities.
2. We love the supermarkets! Coles especially
My wife and I love going to supermarkets and convenience stores overseas, to compare and contrast their products to that of Singapore’s. We spend way too much time in supermarkets, but it’s novelty experience in itself. We’ll typically purchase things we can’t get at home, to sample and decide if we want to buy in bulk for our families back in Singapore. I love scanning the full-colour brochures for bargains.
The shopping experience in Coles, Woolsworth and K-Mart is much better than Singapore’s, both in the products and quality of the stores; they’re comparable to the US counterparts such as Kroger, Walmart and Target. There was actually a Target in Melbourne as well, but the store was not as well stocked.
3. Public transport is understated, but relatively expensive
The quality of the public train services in Sydney and Melbourne are pretty good, compared to Singapore’s. I’m surprised that they’re typically not mentioned among the top public train systems in the world. Sydney’s trains, for eg, are double-deckered, ensuring that commuters won’t be crammed during rush hour, while Melbourne has a free tram zone in the CBD. One thing against these systems, they’re really costly with average rides costing around $3 AUD. Spent more than $50 on public transport in Sydney alone for 3 days.
4. The scale of Vivid Sydney outstrips Singapore’s i-Lights many times over
The light show is truly a spectacle to behold, with the entire Circular Quay, including parts of Darling Harbour, bathe in a kaleidoscope of colour. On top of that, there are art installations all around the quay, up into The Rocks and even within and around the Botanic Gardens. This is a scale unlike any other; it’s cooler than i-Lights.
5. As hip as it gets: Patricia coffee
Patricia coffee is by far the most hipster-fic cafe we visited. A friend tipped me off on this must-visit cafe, and, boy, was it hard to find. It was almost like a hole-in-the-wall place, with no signage and seating, and a very long queue of patrons – an indicator of good coffee. This cafe is definitely worth the visit and the coffee did not disappoint.
6. Nicholas Seafood
While our trip to the Sydney Fish Market was a bit of a let down, we did have a taste of the best soft-shell crab we have ever had. Said item is from Nicholas Seafood, one of the vendors in the market. Yummy!
7. Great Ocean Road tour
A colleague told me before our trip that “you haven’t been to Melbourne, if you do not go on the Great Ocean Road.” I’m not sure if I agree, but the tour was certainly the highlight of our Australia trip. The view of the 12 Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge (pictured topmost) is breathtaking.
I understand that some tourists spend a couple of days exploring this long, scenic drive. We spent a grand total of 1-day only. I felt that suffice. Throughout the coach ride, we were koala-spotting and entertained by the crude jokes of the tour guide, Uncle Richard. I remember that night after we returned to Southern Cross station, we checked out the Crown Casino – my wife’s 1st experience in a casino. That’s a story in itself for another time.
Conclusion: Melbourne and Sydney are certainly great cities to work and study in, and we might return should the opportunity to do so come.