Australia 2016: #LifeDownUnder

AUSTRALIA. What can I say? From efficient transportation to a hint of the great wild, everything’s within reach when you’re in the Land Down Under.

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I love both Melbourne and Sydney (with Melbourne taking the lead). It’s easy to go around either city, and there’s no end to the attractions you can go to. You can walk a few blocks and find yourself in a museum, library or other; and it takes just a train or a short ferry ride to get to the beach or zoo.

But while I love it, I do have some reservations, mainly on aboriginal rights.

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Is it offset by the fact that the people we met were progressive about immigration and LGBT rights? Probably not.

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Trip Highlights

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According to my trusty Alunsina journal, my must-see list for Melbourne included:

  • Melbourne Museum (apparently the largest in the southern hemisphere)
  • National Gallery of Victoria (for the Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei exhibit!)
  • Victorian Arts Centre
  • Collins & Spring Streets
  • Old Melbourne Gaol
  • St. Kilda Beach
  • Flinders Street Station

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For Sydney, this was my list:

  • Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House (duh)
  • Circular Quay and Writer’s Walk
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Darling Harbour
  • Dixon St. (Chinatown)
  • The Rocks
  • Taronga Zoo
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens

I recommend every place we went to. For more details and photos of the places we did go to, read on! :)

Art, Culture and Love

What’s beautiful about Melbourne is that (1) it’s a walking city and (2) there’re plenty of sights to see just walking around. Street artists and lovers of craft make it a point to line the streets with gorgeous pieces.

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We got to see the Andy Warhol x Ai Weiwei exhibit in the National Gallery of Victoria. I think I transcended my physical form during our visit there. They also had lesser known works of internationally famous artists like Picasso and Matisse.

I was breathless the whole time.

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Both cities are also all about “learning spaces”: libraries and exhibits and so on. Public areas usually have fast and free wi-fi. I am beyond impressed by the state libraries we visited.

That dedication to education, good aesthetic and accessibility are really the things I’ll miss.

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They also have a very ‘chill’ culture in Australia. I feel like the stores close quite early during the night.

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Living: Food and Transportation

As I said, it’s easy to get around either city. It’s also very cheap.

There’s a fare cap. You can only pay a maximum amount of money for your rides per day; beyond that, it’s free. There’s also some sort of bonus or incentive discount weekly. I can’t exactly remember.

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In Melbourne, there’s even a Free Tram Zone, which is basically all you need as a tourist. In Sydney, the stations might be a bit more crowded, but there’s a double-deck train so it’s all good.

But it’s actually just very fun to walk around the city. For the most part, you don’t even have to worry about the transportation options available.

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The food, I must admit, is nothing special. There’s Nando’s (which I’ve never eaten at before), and also “Macca’s” and “Hungry Jacks”. Very standard Western fare.

If you’re on a budget, the best bet is always to go to a supermarket. Me and my sister’s idea of budget fare was eating at Subway or Hungry Jacks.

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Though I suppose there’s a lot of fusion and imported cuisines going around. We ate once at a Vietnamese place, and we weren’t disappointed. There were many Korean and Japanese restaurants around.

My favorite has to be the sushi bars like Sushi Hub. I love sushi.

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Note that everything is more expensive in Sydney! 

Things to Do and Places to See

I think I discovered Snapchat in Australia. I have a distinct memory of the scenic Yarra River in Melbourne being one of my few snaps, haha.

In terms of going around, my sister and I would heartily recommend going on one of the Free Walking Tours. It takes a couple of hours, and it covers a great number of sites. To my understanding, the people hosting the tours are students who either study history/art/et cetera or took the time to become an expert on the side.

It can be tiring, sure, but for people who don’t want to rely on Lonely Planet or the internet for an itinerary, free walking tours are a great way to get a feel of a city without having to pay a single cent (though it’s obviously the done thing to give a tip).

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Melbourne was easier to walk around in because it was smaller, and because the ground was more flat.

Fun fact: they also have a lot of bridges in Melbourne.

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Aside from the art hubs I mentioned earlier, there are also tons of gardens you can eat, chill and walk around in. I love Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. I felt like it would go on forever.

And of course you have to go to the more iconic tourists spots.

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There’s also usually free public wi-fi, so there’s really no reason why you can’t enjoy a bit of fresh air.

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And there’s the beach! St. Kilda beach was around 40 minutes away from the main city, which was pretty rad. The sunset was worth it.

Also, no one was appreciably topless in Bondi Beach (except for the surfer dudes with abs).

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Finally, I kept asking myself in Sydney: where are the kangaroos? Apparently they were in the zoo.

We chose Taronga out of the other options because my brother already had free passes to the place. But I think we would have chosen it anyway, because the ride was short and the view was spectacular.

Just remember to bring drinking water with you! It was so hot when we went there.

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And, according to my travel journal, I should let it be known that Australian animals like to sleep during the day, so you won’t see much action going on (unless it’s feeding time).

Thank you:

To my mother, for bringing me to Australia. To my brother and sister, for taking excellent photos. And to my then classmates in college, for putting up with my frequent absences.

Follow me on Twitter!

I sometimes religiously tweet about my travels, sometimes not. Here’s a bit of the former:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

 Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

xxx

Hope we all have a great, love-filled 2017!

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