AUSTRALIA DAY 12 – SYDNEY

We started off the day with a delicious breakfast at Pancakes On the Rocks which was only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. They have such a large selection on their menus so it was difficult to decide what to order! In the end, we ordered the Aussie Sunrise and the Big Breakfast to share. The restaurant was not very busy that day but it appeared understaffed so we had to wait a while for our food. Taste of the food was not bad and proportions were large. Australian breakfast is similar to North America but they also add grilled fruits and veggies!

After breakfast, we walked over to the Sydney Opera House for our 10 a.m. tour.

20180329_100510.jpg

The tour is 1 hour long and costs $37 per person. Tickets can be purchased online a few months in advance and you can pick the time slot that you want. The tour runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each person is provided with an audio device so you can listen to the tour guide as he takes you to various sections of the opera house. Photography is allowed except in areas where the tour guide specifies.

The tour was a good pace and covered a great deal about the Opera House’s history and present. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and kept the presentation interesting.

20180329_103853.jpg

You can purchase a souvenir photo booklet at the end of the tour. The booklet is printed with high quality resolution and there are many different photo backgrounds and sizes included. The price is reasonable and it makes a great souvenir item.

We spent some time checking out the souvenir store and headed over for an early lunch at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar.

We made reservations online but the restaurant was not too busy around noon. We were lucky to get a table right by the water where we had a very clear view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Service was great and the prices were reasonable for a harbour side restaurant. We were still pretty full from breakfast so we ordered a few lighter items to share. We had the cured kingfish, split grilled king prawns, storm clam and a selection of oysters.

20180329_122748.jpg

We are not huge fans of raw oysters but figured we should try it at least once in Australia so we picked 9 based on the recommendation of our server. T

20180329_122451.jpg

he seafood was very fresh and delicious! We really enjoyed each dish that we ordered but my favourite was the king prawns as they tasted very buttery.

20180329_122810.jpg

We had a bad experience with large clams in Taiwan so we were a little afraid of ordering it again. However, this time, the clams were not chewy at all. They were very flavourful and easy to eat.

20180329_122406.jpg

Next on our agenda was the Sydney Botanic Garden. Despite the fact that it was already fall in Australia, the flowers in the garden were still in full bloom. The garden was well maintained and looked beautiful. There were many people visiting the garden, many were white collars on their lunch break. The botanic garden is very big so if you wanted to see everything, you would easily need three hours. We were here for two and we were able to cover 2/3 of it on a brisk pace. While we were there, they had a free floral display at The Calyx. The greenery inside this greenhouse was very luscious and beautifully arranged. It was also a good place to catch some shade on a hot day.

Along the seawall, there are also many good spots for taking photos of the Opera House.

20180329_144646.jpg

I highly recommend visiting the Sydney Botanic Garden because it is very pretty and it’s also free! It is a good way to spend an afternoon near the water after a good seafood lunch!

20180329_143320.jpg

We hopped on a taxi and headed to Pasticceria Papa, a dessert place that my friend highly recommended, in Bondi Beach. The café had a display case full of dessert which almost stretched a block long! Everything looked so delicious even though we just had lunch not too long ago!

20180329_153417.jpg

We ended up ordering an éclair, a chocolate dipped cookie, a coconut pastry, a ricotta cheesecake tart and a slice of their famous Nutella ricotta cheesecake. Despite all the food we had today, we still managed to finish all the desserts! Everything we ordered tasted delicious but the winner was indeed the Nutella cheesecake! The cake was creamy and fluffy but not too rich or overly sweet. You must try this dessert when you come to Bondi Beach!

20180329_153856.jpg

After all that eating, it was definitely time to do some exercise to burn off those calories we consumed!

20180329_170020

We headed over to the beach and started the popular Bondi to Coogee Walk.

20180329_184525.jpg

The whole walk takes about 3 hours and passes through varying landscapes, even through a graveyard!

20180329_165956

For the most part, the walk is on paved road which is not too bad but at times, it can be a little scary, especially when you are walking on large rocks right beside the water where there are no barricades.

20180329_184227.jpg

There are also several steep flights of stairs, both up and down.

20180329_170728.jpg

Washrooms, convenience stores and shelter are limited on the trail so make sure you come prepared with the right gear for the weather.

20180329_173041.jpg

Personally, the walk was not too bad for myself because the beautiful scenery was a good distraction and plus we had our eyes on the finish line to keep us focused.

20180329_170738.jpg

It was such a great sense of accomplishment when we reached Coogee although it was a little disappointing that there was no sign to congratulate you for finishing the trail!

20180329_172756.jpg

At Coogee, we waited for my friend to pick us up for dinner. I have worked closely with this colleague for 2.5 years, communicating everyday on e-mail or Skype, and now I finally get to meet him in person! He recognized me right away from across the street and we were quickly on our way to dinner at Nishiki Wagyu Yakiniku Restaurant. It is an all you-can-eat Japanese restaurant which is right off the Pacific Highway in Cows Nest.

20180329_195127.jpg

The cost is $74.90 per person and there is a two hour limit. I have never been to a Japanese all-you-can-eat where they have such a large selection of grilled items, especially so many different cuts of beef!

20180329_200346.jpg

The food was very fresh and delicious! Unlike the buffet restaurants in Richmond, they didn’t skimp us out towards the end, they gave us the exact quantity of what we ordered each time. My favourite dish that night was no doubt the wagyu beef!

20180329_200437.jpg

It was so juicy and tender! For $75, it is definitely worth it. In Canada, you would not be able to get such good quality wagyu beef at that price!

20180329_200922.jpg

Service was also very good. It is a little out of the way but I highly recommend you to try this restaurant!

20180329_200550.jpg

After dinner, my friend took us to a nearby grocery store and we grabbed some essentials before heading home. It was indeed a day of non-stop eating but all the food we had were so delicious! Good thing we also did lots of exercise that day to help balance it out!

AUSTRALIA DAY 11 – SYDNEY

We took a taxi and headed to the Melbourne airport for our 8 a.m. flight to Sydney. We finished checking in early so we went to McDonalds to grab breakfast. Their breakfast menu is the same as Canada’s but a tad pricier. I had the hotcakes (called pancakes in Canada) and a chocolate macaroon. The macaroon tasted bland but I was not expecting much anyways since it is from McDonalds after all…

20180328_073948

We flew with Virgin Australia and the flight arrived on time in Sydney after an hour and 30 minutes flight. We are now on the final stretch of our trip! Time flies by when you are on vacation, EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. We took an Uber from the airport to our hotel in The Rocks which took about 30 minutes. Our room was not ready yet so we stowed our luggage with front desk and went out to grab lunch at a nearby café called Creperie Suzette.

The café looks very much like the cafes in Europe so I will definitely give them a 10 for that. Although the crepes and galettes were not prepared by authentic French people like Roule Galette in Melbourne, they were still pretty delicious. The crepes and galettes we had in Melbourne had a creamier taste but the toppings at Creperie Suzette were more unique. We ordered the La Tasmanienne (smoked Tasmanian salmon, capers, cream Fraiche and fresh dill), La Pekinoise (Peking duck, spring onion, mature cheddar cheese and hoisin sauce) and La Pomme Cannelle (poached apple and cinnamon). We enjoyed all three crepes/galettes but our favourite was the La Pekinoise! Who would have thought that Pekin duck, a Chinese dish, would go so well with crepes!

20180328_115836.jpg

After a very satisfying lunch, we headed off to our first attraction, Taronga Zoo on Uber. We bought our tickets online for $42.30 AUD which is 10% cheaper than purchasing it at the gate. My rule of thumb is to always buy your tickets online because you save money and you avoid the line ups! The zoo is pretty big so we spent about 4.5 hours here and was able to see everything. I wish the zoo map was a little more user friendly! There were a few attractions that we had difficulty finding and had to circle back a few times to locate it. They have an interactive map on their app but it was not much help either!

We saw the seal show which seemed to be the most popular there judging by how long the line up was! We also saw the zookeeper presentation for the elephants and the gorillas which was very entertaining. Even though I’ve been to a decent number of zoos already, this is the first time I’ve seen gorillas up close! Their behaviours are really human-like! Other interesting highlights for me at this zoo was their tiger exhibit, free running emus and the comodo dragon! There is also a great spot to snap a photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge near the entrance. Targona zoo was decent but I still think The Australia Zoo in Beerwah was still my favourite on this trip! We stayed until the zoo closed and in the last hour or so, there are very few people left in the zoo so you really feel like you have the whole place to yourself! We ran out of time for the souvenir shop though.

It took us a long time to our next destination as it was rush hour so we had difficulty getting a Uber, especially when the zoo is quite far from the city and other attractions. In hindsight, we should have taken the ferry from the Zoo to the Circular Wharf Quay since they are both by the waters. However, since we left so late, we probably would not have made it for the ferry anyways!

20180328_183523.jpg

Despite the delay, we still managed to arrive on time for our dinner cruise! We checked in at the information booth for Captain Cook Cruise and waited by the terminal for our boat. When the boat docked at the terminal, we were surprised at how big it was!

20180328_185716.jpg

After we were taken to our seats, we were given the menu to pick our dishes. Unfortunately, we did not get a window seat ☹

20180328_190507.jpg

The interior of the boat was just as fancy as its exterior. There was a live band playing and the seats were very comfortable. We went outside to snap a few photos of the harbour before the sunset after we placed our orders. The weather and lighting was perfect at that time.

20180328_191236.jpg

For appetizers, we ordered the Australia smoked salmon and warm lamb salad.

Then it was followed by the duck confit and beef tenderloin fillet for our main courses.

Lastly, we ended the evening off with the coconut mousse, chocolate hazelnut cloud and the slow baked lemon and lime tart.

The food was delicious that evening and proportions were good. A glass of champagne was complimentary but other beverages were not included. The cruise lasted for 3.5 hours and we had a great time! My phone does not have the best camera so the pictures I took after sunset did not turn out that great. Nonetheless, the experience was very memorable!

20180328_210946.jpg

After we disembarked, we walked around the gift shops by Circular Quay before heading back to our hotel. This time we stayed at the Rendezvous Hotel Sydney in the Rocks. It is a very close walk to Circular Quay and Sydney Opera House. I love the area and highly recommend staying here when you are visiting Sydney. It is a simplistic and older hotel but it was sufficient for our stay. It also has a small kitchen which is a bonus. Given that we were staying here during peak season, the price was not too bad at $285 CAD a night!

AUSTRALIA DAY 10 – MELBOURNE

20180327_092716.jpg

Today is our last full day in Melbourne! It was nice to be back in the city again after being on day trips for the last two days. We started off the day with a delicious French breakfast at Roule Galette. The restaurant is split up in two locations – the dining area on one side and the kitchen on the other. We ordered the chicken avocado and truffle salmon galettes as well as the maple syrup crepe.

My aunt ordered the flat white and I had the organic apple cider. Food and drinks here were amazing! You know the food is authentic when it is served by staff with French accents!  The galettes and crepe were cooked just right and were piled with fresh ingredients. The service was also excellent. I highly recommend this café!

20180327_093225.jpg

After a delicious breakfast, we visited the infamous Hoiser Lane. I can’t emphasize this enough…come early during the day so you can get pictures without being photo bombed!

20180327_092252.jpg

We got here around 10 a.m. so it was not too bad. We were able to take our time to look at all the artwork and get some nice pictures with it. There was a musk coming from the garbage cans as there are quite a few here but it was still bearable.

20180327_102239.jpg

Hoiser lane is an area where artists can legally do graffiti art on the street. Each time you come here, the artwork you see will be unique as new ones would have been drawn over old ones.

20180327_102250.jpg

Later on in the free walking tour, we found out that there’s an artwork here drawn by a famous Australian artist of a native boy. In one of his eyes, you will see a reflection of his past while in the other eye, a reflection of his future which is to signify the change experienced by the first nations in the country throughout time. We spent a good 45 minutes here taking photos before we headed off to our next destination, the Queen Victoria Market.

20180327_104429.jpg

The Queen Victoria Market is only open on select days and time so make sure you check the hours before visiting. This was probably my favourite shopping stop on this entire trip so I highly recommend a visit here. I allocated two hours for the market but we ended up spending three hours here and still not getting through the whole thing! This market was way larger than I expected and there was way more to see so I would say three hours is a safe amount of time to allocate here. They only have paid parking here so I would recommend catching a Uber here to save a few dollars.

20180327_111133.jpg

The market is divided into three areas – souvenirs, cooked food and produce. We spent three hours alone in the souvenir section! There were at least six rows of souvenir shops which stretched for three blocks.

20180327_111202.jpg

Although some shops sold similar souvenir items like the boomerangs or koala plush toys, we did see some unique items such as rugs made from Australian wool, Ugg lookalikes, and handmade leather wallets. The prices are very reasonable here and unfortunately, we were only able to bargain at one stall! If you need to pick up some souvenirs, this market is a one-stop shop.

20180327_121015.jpg

I bought two pairs of Ugg lookalikes here for $69.99 each which was really good quality and the designs were very unique. They also had a large selection of sizes and colour to choose from. They also accept credit card so you don’t have to worry about running out of cash! I also purchased a customized leather wallet here which I absolutely love! They have many different styles and colour to choose from as well. They also have various embellishments you can add to customize it to your liking and they will engrave your name for free. My wallet came up to $45 which is a steal for the quality and the customization!

20180327_143601.jpg

Since we went overtime at the market, we had to forgo our fancy lunch and we had to grab something quick to eat before our free walking tour. We grabbed some dim sum at a small Chinese stand across the street and the food actually turned out to be pretty delicious. Melbourne definitely lives up to their name as the city with the best food in Australia! We sat and ate our lunch as we waited for others to arrive for the free tour. We had a large group that day so we were split off into two groups. The walking tour was approximately 2.5 hours long and you got to see a glimpse of the different areas in Melbourne while learning about the history of its development. I felt the tour is a good way to get a general understanding of each area but you will have to come back to it on your own time to truly see everything. No reservation is required for the tour. You simply show up at the State Library of Victoria and look for the tour guide wearing the free walking tour t-shirt. Since the tour is free, a tip is highly recommended at the end based on what you think the tour is worth. We paid $50 for the three of us.

20180327_150053.jpg

We first started outside of the Old Melbourne Gaol to learn about how the city started as a prison for British Convict. We learned about the infamous Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, who was sent to the gaol and later hanged for murder. The 2003 movie Ned Kelly was based on this true story. We then walked over to Chinatown where our tour guide told us a little about the history of Chinese immigrants in Australia and where was the best place to grab steamed dumplings in town.

20180327_152752.jpg

From Chinatown we headed over to Pellegrini’s which serves Melbourne’s best coffee for the last 60 years. It is an Espresso bar which serves cheap but delicious Italian food and they have no menus with prices!

20180327_153410.jpg

We then sat outside the steps of Melbourne’s Town Hall where our tour guide told us about its history and talked about the history of performing arts in the city.

20180327_154207.jpg

She told us that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be playing in Melbourne in 2019 so if you are a Harry Potter fan, you must go to check it out!

20180327_154550.jpg

We stopped for a bathroom break at Collin’s Place before heading over to the AC/DC Lane. This lane was dedicated to Malcolm Young, a member of the Australian hard rock band, AC/DC when he passed away in 2017. The artwork in this lane is very well done! We also stopped by the Hoiser Lane but it was a very brief stop. There were many people gathered at the lane now so it was a good thing that we came for pictures earlier!

While we passed by the posters, our tour guide told us that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival was coming up soon and it is one of the biggest Comedy Festivals in the world. How I wish we were in town for that! We walked across the Princes Bridge to our final stop, the Hamer Hall, which is the art center for Melbourne.

Our tour guide told us that Sydney Opera House has the best physical structure but the Hamer Hall has the best sound system in Australia.  I can’t really comment on that as I did not watch any performances in the Hamer Hall.

20180327_171535.jpg

From the Hamer Hall, we took an Uber to Brighton Beach, which was about a 45-minute drive away during rush hour. After seeing pictures of the colourful bathing boxes, I knew that we had to make a stop here.

20180327_193008.jpg

Brighton is an affluent coastal suburb of Melbourne and there are 85 bathing boxes here which date back to the 1900s.

20180327_183531.jpg

Brighton Beach is one of the most popular beach destination in the state of Victoria.  We spent about an hour here walking from the first bath box all the way to the last one and then back. Each bath box was unique so it was a great deal of fun checking out each one.

20180327_184947.jpg

We stayed at the beach after sunset so we got some stunning pictures of the bath boxes both before and after the sunset.

20180327_184959.jpg

We had an interesting ride back to the city as we chatted away with our Uber driver who had moved to Melbourne about a year ago from Dubai. It was sad to hear that he still had to work as a Uber driver after his full time job in the office in order to support his family in Melbourne. Melbourne housing prices are equally as bad as Vancouver’s! He dropped us off for dinner at Ezard where we had made dinner reservations. We wanted to have a fancy dinner for our last dinner in Melbourne so I picked this place based on online reviews. With any fancy restaurants, you would of course expect a pricier menu. We were able to get away with only a $300 damage after tips and full bellies which is not too bad. For drinks, my aunt ordered the flat white (her favourite drink this trip) and I ordered this non-alcoholic drink called The rise of rose. My drink was pretty good, bubbly with a strong rose scent. For appetizers, we shared two oyster shooters, scallop dumpling and the Western Australian marron. The oyster shooters were served in ponzu sauce and Japanese sake.They were very fresh and the Japanese sake gave it a nice, sweet kick.

20180327_210259.jpg

The steamed scallop dumplings were served in a broth with white fungi and basil. It tasted a little like the shrimp dumplings you have in dim sum!

20180327_211549.jpg

The marron was fresh and it was paired with interesting ingredients such as granola and nasturtium. The dish came in a tomato-coloured casing which was also really neat.

20180327_212629.jpgThe restaurant also served us a free appetizer which was some sort of pickled cucumber with masago.

20180327_205015.jpg

For entrees, we had the barramundi, Ora salmon and the Chinese style duck. We shared the three dishes so we could try each one.

All three dishes were fresh, flavourful and well presented but my favourite was the barramundi. The chef did an excellent job to ensure the fish meat was succulent while giving the skin a nice crisp finish.

20180327_214653.jpg

We also got an order of Crème Royale potatoes with miso and wasabi butter to share.

20180327_214721.jpg

Overall, the food was amazing and each dish was so well thought out by the chef. The pairing of each dish was so unique. Who would have thought that Western-Japanese fusion dishes would taste so delicious! The only complaint I have about our dining experience at Ezard was the service. Our server disappeared half the time and towards the end, we were assigned a new server without any notification beforehand. I would have given this restaurant a 9 but decided to knock it down to 7.5 due to the service!

20180327_221432.jpg

After a delicious meal, it was time to head back to our hotel to get packing for our last stop, Sydney! Melbourne is a lovely city and I wish we had spent a little more time here! Food was amazing, the city was bustling but not overly crowded and there were so many things to do! I was joking with my fiancé that we should move to Melbourne and live here for a while…. Melbourne and Vancouver are quite similar in many ways. Who knows! Maybe one day we will!

AUSTRALIA DAY 9 – GREAT OCEAN ROAD

20180326_100538.jpg

It was another early morning for us that day as we had signed up for the Great Ocean Road tour with Bunyip Tours. We were waiting outside the meeting point at 6:50 a.m. and it was a chilly morning. Our first stop was a washroom and biscuit break after a 1.5-hour ride on the bus in a small town. After another hour drive, we finally arrived at the Great Ocean Road memorial arch, which is where the Great Ocean Road begins.

20180326_100528.jpg

The Great Ocean Road was a project completed by the soldiers who returned from World War I looking for work. It is dedicated as a memorial but also the road was built to connect the settlements who were living by the coast as previously these settlements were only accessible by sea or bush track. The construction began in 1919 and took three years to complete. The road stretches 244 kilometres and is difficult to drive through as there is only one lane in each direction and the speed limit varies from 50 km to 100 km/hour. The roads are also very windy and narrow. The Great Ocean Road travels alongside vertical cliffs which are susceptible to erosion so there are possible rockfalls.  However, it is one of the most scenic drives as it traverses through rainforests, beaches and cliffs while providing visibility of the Bass Strait and Southern Ocean.

Next stop again was a washroom break but it was a good spot to snap a picture of the nice beach. There were also many wild, white cockatoos here.

20180326_104349

After another 45 minute drive, we stopped at a spot where wild koalas and cockatoos are frequently spotted. We only managed to find one koala but there were lots of cockatoos. Our tour guide gave us some seeds to feed them and they were not shy about eating from your hands! I have a phobia of animals with sharp beaks so I was very nervous about feeding the birds. However, I figured that this was probably one of those rare opportunities so I decided to do it anyways. While one was eating off my hand, another one flew on top of my head! Thank goodness I was wearing a hat!

We drove a little further and stopped at a stopping point for photos of the beautiful shoreline. Next stop was finally lunchtime!

20180326_121513

We had lunch at the Iluka Café and we had a choice between roast chicken, fish and chips or lamb shawarma. Between the three of us, we ordered one of each and the food tasted pretty delicious.

After an hour lunch break, we were back on the bus and headed for the Twelve Apostles at the Port Campbell National Park. I believe we were originally supposed to make a stop at another attraction but unfortunately the attraction was closed as they were doing repairs on the damage from the forest fire last week.

The Twelve Apostle is a collection of limestone stacks and were formed by erosion. There was previously nine but the ninth one collapsed back in 2005. The limestones have no connection to the biblical reference. It was simply a name they used in lieu of its previous one, Sow and Pigs. There were many people here when we visited but we were still able to get very clear, beautiful shots of the limestones.

We drove a little further down the Port Campbell National Park to see the London Arch, Loch Ard Gorge, and the Razorback. Each one of these have its own observation area which made it easy to snap some nice pictures.

20180326_162226.jpg

The London Arch was previously called the London bridge due to its similarity to its namesake but got renamed when the arch collapsed in 1990.

On the other hand, the gorge was named after the ship Loch Ard which ran aground on its way to Melbourne. Only two out of 54 passengers survived and the rock pillars are named after them, Tom and Eva.

The Loch Ard Gorge was my favourie of the three but required walking up and down a steep staircase.

20180326_160123

However, the photos are totally worth it! Even though the weather was not the greatest when we visited, the photos still turned out really nice. Each one looks just like a postcard!

When we were visiting the Razorback, we also saw a rainbow!

20180326_163926.jpg

The next stop was Gibson Steps but not many people from our tour decided to get off the bus for this one as it was raining really hard and the walk down was very steep. It was a little tiring but I felt the photos taken were worth the trip! The Steps are named after the person who built a staircase for visitors to get a closer look of the twelve apostles from below.

We made our last washroom stop and grabbed some food to eat before we headed back home. We saw a double rainbow at the gas station which was really neat as I have never seen one before! The ride back was three hours long. We had a long, busy day so we napped for a bit on our ride home. I am glad we decided to do the Great Ocean Road on a tour rather than driving ourselves as it would have been a very exhausting drive! The price of the tour is reasonable so I think it is better to sit back, relax and enjoy as a passenger rather than doing the drive yourself.

20180326_183443.jpg

After we got dropped off around 8 pm, we decided to go for dinner at Chin Chin, an Asian fusion restaurant that my friend highly recommended. There was a 30 minute wait so we decided to go for a walk and come back. Although it was a Monday night, Melbourne CBD was still very busy. We did not get very far in our stroll when they texted us to tell us that the table was ready.

The restaurant was jam packed and there were still many people lining up outside. It was also very loud with music playing in the background so it was a little difficult to hear each other.

20180326_212706.jpg

After reading the reviews online, we decided to order the braised wagyu beef pad seuw, caramelised sticky pork, crispy skinned duck and a bowl of coconut rice to share.

20180326_215413

All the dishes were very delicious and very strong in flavour.

20180326_215407.jpg

I am not sure if they put a lot of MSG or spices in their food, but I had to drink lots of water to wash down the flavour after dinner. The duck was very crispy as the name suggests and was paired with a nice ginger soya sauce.

20180326_215421.jpg

The sticky pork was not too bad but my favourite was the pad seuw. This was a creative dish as I have never had rice rolls stir fried with meat before. Surprisingly, it tastes pretty good with beef! I think I will try to make this at home.

20180326_214715.jpg

Price was reasonable and the service was good. Our dining experience at Chin Chin was a great way to end the night!

AUSTRALIA DAY 7 – MELBOURNE

20180324_082553

We headed out early in the morning to catch our 8:55 am flight to Melbourne after dropping off our rental car. We flew with Qantas this time. Everything about the flight was good but they did not allow you to pay for luggage online so we had to do it in person which I thought was a slight waste of time. Not to mention, the cost was a little steep at $50 AUD per piece!

After 2 hours 10 minutes, we arrived safety in Melbourne! We were greeted by rain as soon as we landed. It was about a 30-minute drive to our hotel but time flew by quick as our Uber driver shared with us some interesting facts and useful tips about the city. He told us that Melbourne is a city with lots to do; there are always a festival, event or concert going on in town. When we were there, they were hosting the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

20180324_183652.jpg

He also told us to go check out the Crowne Casino and the restaurants along Southbank. The Uber driver said driving in Melbourne can be difficult because there are many trams which share the road and they are the only city in the world to use hook turns. Hook turn is a right-hand turn that you do from the left hand lane. I think it is such a stressful turn to make because you have to keep an eye out for cars coming from both directions; it is especially challenging to watch the ones coming from behind you!

We stayed at the Punthill Manhattan which is a service apartment style hotel. These types of hotel are very popular in Australia. Our room was available shortly after we arrived so we went upstairs to drop off our luggage before heading out. The apartment was very spacious with two single beds and a sofa bed. Kitchen and bathroom were large too. There was also a washer and dryer in the bathroom. Cleanliness was good except for some stains in the jacuzzi bathtub. Front desk service was excellent and helpful as well. The location is awesome as it is only a 5-minute walk to the free tram station and just a 10 minute walk to Melbourne CBD with lots of restaurants and a convenient store nearby.

20180324_142532.jpg

We took the free tram to the Bunyip Tour head office first to pick up our tour tickets. We bought a bundled package which includes the Great Ocean Road and Phillips Island Penguin tours as well as admission to two major attractions in Melbourne. Their tour guides were knowledgeable and friendly.  The vans were small but comfortable. The driver came 15 minutes late for our second tour. However, it was nice that they actually had someone working in the office at 6 am who answered our call and confirmed that the driver was on his way. We picked the aquarium and Skydeck 88 for the two attractions. Even though the tram is free, it was clean and well maintained. Many of the locals were also taking this tram. The free tram travels along the main street of CBD but if you have to head out of CBD, you will have to take the paid tram. That was the only time that we took the free tram in Melbourne but it was very user friendly so I highly recommend it.

Our first attraction in Melbourne was the Sea Life Aquarium. There was a long line up for ticket purchase so it was nice that we got to cut the queue with our pre-purchased ones. We first headed to their cafeteria to grab some lunch. The cafeteria is the only place inside the aquarium which serves hot food and they served the typical burgers and fish and chips. Prices were reasonable and food was not bad. In an hour and a half, we were able to go through the whole aquarium. The two highlights for me were the giant crocodile which you could “step on” on a glass floor and seeing the aquarium guests feed sharks in wetsuits inside one of the large tanks. Not much to see in the gift shop so we just took a quick stroll.

20180324_173151.jpg

Next, we were headed for the Eureka Skydeck 88. While we were walking there, we snapped some nice pictures of the Melbourne skyline and watched the street performance for a bit. The Skydeck 88 was not busy at all when we visited in the afternoon so we were able to leisurely pace around the observation deck. It is the 2nd tallest building in Australia and 15th tallest in terms of residential building in the world. They also have the highest post box in Australia where you can mail out a postcard.

We were ahead of schedule so we decided to check out the Crowne Casino that our Uber driver recommended. He was right. The casino was very extravagant and grand. To go from one end to the other takes about 30 minutes. It was rated by Forbes as one of the finest five-star properties in the world in 2017. A casino, hotel, food court, restaurants, and retail stores reside on the property. It was bustled with people coming from all directions. My favourite was the food court as they have a large selection of cuisines to choose from. They had a stall which sold Chinese food and I was craving a snack before our late dinner tonight. I ordered a chicken thigh and sui mai to share. The food tasted better than I expected and prices were reasonable as well.

After we finished eating, we went outside to stroll along Southbank. Along the river, there were some graffiti murals which were well drawn. They also had a Bangkok Market set up where you can buy Thai food and drinks to try. Since the Formula 1 Grand Prix was going on, there were also some stalls opened selling souvenirs and there were a few racing cars on display.

We then took a Uber to our meeting point for the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. At first, I was a little concerned about how to find the meeting point as they had to move it due to the Formula 1 race. Luckily, there was already many people gathered there so we spotted it pretty quickly. After they took attendance, everyone boarded the tram. The other guests were well dressed for the event and they all seemed to be locals except for us! Once we were all seated, the host gave us a brief introduction and the tram was on its way! The host came by to serve us drinks and took our order.

We had a 5-course meal that night and you could choose your appetizer, main and dessert. Did I mention that alcohol was unlimited? We only had apple ciders that night though as I was feeling quite tired from our long day and alcohol makes me sleepy! The dining experience is three hours (8:35 to 11:30 pm) and they take you along the city on the tram tracks. Our host had a great sense of humour and we were well entertained for the evening. The food was also very delicious. The course were served promptly but with a decent gap between the courses. The proportions were also very generous so we had food leftover.

The tram was very steady so we did not get motion sickness at all. There were three trams that night and each one sits 24 people. The seats were comfortable and the décor was very fancy. The trams were vintage W class trams built in 1927 and provided 55 years of tram service before they were retired. They were then converted for the purpose of the restaurant in 1981.  Although the tram is quite narrow, there is actually a fully equipped kitchen and a washroom onboard as well! The food is prepared offsite but brought onto the tram in raw form. While the tram moves, the chef will cook the food so it is delivered fresh to each guest. I cringed a little when I bought the tickets online as it is expensive ($150/person). However, I had such a great time and the opportunity is quite rare! Book online as spots do fill up fast!

It was past midnight by the time we got back to the hotel. The day has been a long one as we were up since 6 am but it was a great deal of fun! Our first day in Melbourne was a success!