Melbourne, Australia

Sunday, March 19, 2023

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If I'm being completely honest, Melbourne didn't blow me away. 

Don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely stunning city that screams 'arts & culture', and there's so much beauty in being the more laid-back Aussie destination especially if you're comparing it to the fast-paced Sydney. However, it did feel like we covered a decent chunk of what the place had to offer despite spending only barely two days (22-23 April 2022) there. 

Of course, it's also important to note that my credibility to judge Melbourne as a tourist location will be thrown out of the window the moment I reveal that I'm not a coffee drinker. The city has an obsession with their cuppa Joe's, and boasts some of the best cafes and baristas in the world, all of which I'm unable to fully appreciate. 

That said, I did still thoroughly enjoy my time there, which was mostly characterised by stuffing my face silly and being awed by the sheer photogenic quality of every nook and cranny. Here's a glimpse into that–

Day 1

Put forth by the New York Times as possibly one of the world's best croissants, getting my hands on the flaky pastry from Lune Croissanterie was really the only thing I held myself accountable to doing in Melbourne. 

And with my pre-paid order for a mixed box of six classics already filed online five days prior, I walked past this long line into the store directly to pick it up– with a skip in my step and admittedly a completely unnecessary tinge of haughtiness I credited to my foresight. 

The box included a traditional croissant, pain au chocolat, lemon cruffin, kouign-amann, almond croissant, and a ham & gruyere pastry. 

The verdict? No doubt that expert-levels of technique went into making each buttery delight, especially if one takes into account the challenge that comes with maintaining consistency in quality at such high volumes. But describing it as ethereal or otherworldly is a real stretch.  

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Australia's oldest and most-visited art museum. 

The QUEER showcase within the NGV was extensive and popular, judging by the sheer crowd present. It also made me wonder if any public Singapore institutions would stage such an exhibition that touches on similar themes in my lifetime. 

The collection was visually and intellectually rather overwhelming though.

And the Pride/ LGBTQIA theme serendipitously continued outside of the confines of the museum. 

In the same vein, the streets were plastered in art, particularly at Hosier Lane.

Ronald is definitely coming for me, I'm chained by the offers on the McDonald's app. 

Is there such a thing as too much character? 

Art was even found within places of worship, this one being the exhibition of Luke Jerram's Gaia, housed in the St Paul's Cathedral. Gazing up towards the sphere that bore the likeness of Mother Earth made for quite a contemplative experience. 

Compared to Tasmania, Melbourne's weather was a lot warmer so these newly launched plant-based desserts made for a lovely treat. We got a few pods of pudding from their little marketing campaign pop-up. 

Note to self: Never judge the quality of an Asian restaurant by the crowd of non-Asians. This was a packed eatery, but the dishes were utterly disappointing, at least to our palates. 

Lunch decision mistakes aside, roaming around Chinatown brought me a sense of ease and familiarity.

And we just had to fit in a visit to a cafe, the most highly-rated one near us being the Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters


Unfortunately, the drinks and tart left us really disappointed. My hot chocolate looked the part, but tasted absolutely nothing like hot chocolate–and I know this sounds like an exaggeration but it genuinely isn't. Perhaps we just caught them on an off-day though, because I've friends and acquaintances rave about this establishment. 

Day 2

If I lived in Melbourne, I'd have a hard time resisting visiting the Queen Victoria Market all the damn time. It's the ultimate one-stop shop for fresh produce, artisan goods, and just good vibes all around, really. 

Breakfast started off strong with this juicy hot dog, though it could've done without that heaping mass of sauerkraut. 

Raspberry jam filled glazed donut and a beautiful Lamington–ever since I started watching Australian YouTuber Natalie Tran's (community channel) videos more than 10 years ago where this Australian cake became somewhat of an inside joke, I've always wanted to sink my teeth into an actual one. 

Alas, the idea of a Lamington is better than a Lamington itself. It's just plain butter cake coated in chocolate and covered in desiccated coconut. At least this one had a thin layer of raspberry jam between the cake slices, which gave it a bit more flavour. 

Considered purchasing a bouquet for myself just to feel like a main character. Glad it remained a consideration. 

No trip to Melbourne would be complete without a visit to the iconic State Library Victoria, which is Australia's oldest library. 

The structure of this building did remind me vaguely of the library in my junior college–obviously the latter isn't as grand, but it boasts a similar cylindrical shape and heavy teak furniture. 

How dost thou, sweet William? 

Quite the sight greeted us when we left the library–folks were organising and advocating for a Free Palestine. 

The flag bearer, literally. 

I'll be the first to admit that my understanding of the Free Palestine movement and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict barely scratches the surface and is mainly limited to what I  had studied in back in school. I did, however, use this opportunity to read up a little more about it, and found this site most useful for me personally. 

And while I am conscious not to take away from the important cause they were fighting for and turn it into an 'experience' for myself, I do want to mention that as a sheltered Singaporean, finding myself in the middle of this was eye-opening. 

Whilst we were enjoying our final cuppa at Lt. Nic, a hole in the wall cafe we stumbled upon, the folks from the Free Palestine movement marched past chanting. 

I can't think of a more on-brand way to conclude our short stay in Melbourne than having a cup of coffee, which made for this pretty picture. 

The end of our Melbourne journey also signalled the parting of ways with my four travel buddies of two weeks. As crazy as embarking on a trip with strangers seemed at the start, it's equally insane how everything fell into place so perfectly. All things considered, we were able to balance and play around with each other's qualities and preferences throughout the duration of living together through nine Airbnbs, one lakeside lodge and one historical relic of a hotel–we even had to plan out laundry days based on the availability of washing machines. 

A huge belated thank you to each one of you for being so very accommodating and honestly, being such a fun and inappropriate bunch, though it's unlikely any one of you would end up reading this. 

They headed back to Singapore while I caught a flight to Sydney to spend some much-needed solo self-soothing, soul-searching time, which I'll hopefully detail in my next one. 

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Tasmania, Australia (Part II)

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Am I surprised that I had let my Tasmania part one post rot for almost nine months before following up on the long-awaited (said no one ever) part two? Not exactly, considering I'm mega prone to procrastination, particularly when the task is not tied to any external pressure. 

And do I regret not blogging when the trip was still relatively fresh in my mind? Perhaps, because it's been quite the struggle flipping between an outdated itinerary planning spreadsheet, multiple photo sources including my camera, my two phones and my friend's camera reel, and a bunch of haphazardly recorded location names in the 'Saved Messages' chat on my Telegram app–trying so hard to piece the second part of my Tasmania trip together in chronological order.

Yet in some ways, looking back and organising all the memories from the trip more than half a year later proved to be a therapeutic experience, allowing me to relieve the highlights. While this trip felt like an endurance bootcamp whilst I was living it, the sheer novelty of it all was actually really refreshing in hindsight and my heart is renewed with gratitude for all I've seen, tasted, and breathed in–for real though, the air is so much crisper there.

With that, here's what we did for the rest of our Tassie leg, the story predominantly told by photographs. 

Stanley (Day 6)

Post scaling Cradle Mountain and living in Tullah, we made our way to Stanley on day 6 of our roadtrip, though not without grabbing a copy of the local newspaper, which contained some of the most wholesome, community-centric articles you'd ever read. 

Stanley is such a quaint, picturesque town. 

We stopped by a local haunt, Touchwood Cafe & Gallery for lunch. 

This was where we all fell in love with seafood chowder. Every joint we checked out from hereon made this hearty Tasmanian staple differently, but we slurped each bowl with a whole lot of glee and soaked up every drop with the best carb to pair with, buttered toast. 

And we checked out some of the cutest, local-owned shops. Everything was so artfully curated and created. 

Trowutta Arch, Lake Chrisholm, The Nut (Day 6)

Once our bellies and hearts were filled, we embarked on the nature part of our day, starting off with the Trowutta Arch, which definitely ranks high on my list of 'low-effort-high-returns' hikes. An easy, short walk into a rainforest led us to a scene that looked like it came straight out from a sci-fi movie.  

The green's a result of algae growing on the water's surface, though I was better off not knowing that. 

Following that, we made our way to the Lake Chrisholm Regional Reserve, which I don't remember being a very difficult route either. Perhaps nothing could top Day 5's Cradle Mountain ascend, and I definitely appreciated the down time I was afforded. 

Shot by my talented friend: similar to Part 1, photos not in 9:16 or 16:9 aspect ratio are shot by her.

We probably stopped for a couple more hikes along the way, but the highlight of the day would be scaling The Nut. Truth be told, I was absolutely exhausted from the previous day and was looking forward to paying for a chair lift to take me to the top in five minutes. Alas, the stars did not align for me as the service wasn't open when we got there and I had to drag my sorry ass up a really steep track. It was worth it though, because we were given a jaw-dropping view of Stanley town under the most beautiful golden hour glow on the way up. 

It started getting real dark while we were exploring the top of The Nut but we caught sight of so much wildlife here, it was unreal.  I wouldn't be surprised if Snow White emerged from the woods. We did have to get down quite hurriedly as we didn't want to be driving for too long in pitch blackness to our next accommodation. 

We had a home-cooked dinner at Sister's Beach, and special shout-out to the Toy Story inspired bedroom I stayed in for the night. 

Sister's Beach (Day 7) 

Truth be told, I can't quite remember what we did at Sister's Beach, but I remember exploring the vicinity in the morning prior to our drive to the next town, Launceston. It was raining quite a bit though, and I ended up being completely soaked. 

Some people are just built for adventure. 

We had also stopped by a lighthouse that was completely not worth stopping by for. 

Launceston - Cataract Gorge Reserve (Day 7)

One of the key attractions of Launceston is the Cataract Gorge Reserve, which was probably the first time I felt like there were fellow international tourists around me. Everywhere we visited prior to this attracted predominantly domestic tourists, and it was a welcome change to guess where each group of visitors hailed from. We heard the familiar tones of Taiwanese Mandarin, Hong Kong Cantonese, and of course Singlish. 

While such a place could feel overly commercialised with chair lifts, a swimming pool, boat cruises, rock climbing activities and restaurants, they did a great job at still maintaining and preserving the integrity of nature. We went on the walking track which led us to the earliest municipal hydroelectric power station in Australia, which housed an exhibition showcasing the history of the building. 

A little hydration break.

And that night, we decided to treat ourselves to a lovely steak dinner at Jailhouse Grill, also located in Launceston. 

Each main came with access to a "salad" bar, so worth it. 

St Helens, Bay of Fires & St Marys (Day 8)

We started the next day travelling to another town, St Helens, where we had lunch at The Bays Kitchen. And this is where I had the best savoury pie of my life. It's such an unassuming little place, but it was bustling with so much life–locals and tourists alike formed a steady stream of customers the whole time we were there. 

Seafood chowder, buttered toast, and a hearty beef pie. Perfection. 

I know, the chowder really doesn't look the most appetising, but it was just what we needed. 

Fuelled for the day, we made our way to Bay of Fires, which got its name mainly from the orange-coloured granite rocks that surround the vast seas. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't the kindest to us, and we had to exercise caution when hopping from one slippery surface to another. 


Home for the night was at St Marys Hotel as there weren't any Airbnb's available in the quaint, little town of St Marys. The hotel is a historic location built in the 1910s and was in itself the only real "attraction" of the whole town. Each room had so much character and the bathrooms were shared with every other hotel guest. 

Complete peace and quiet in the town. 

We had dinner that night at the bistro on the ground floor of the hotel (there were only two stories anyway), where they gave us insanely huge portions of chicken parm for such a reasonable price. 

Once we got over the shared bathroom concept, the charm of the hotel really stood out, and I must say it was quite difficult to bid goodbye to the star of this rural township. 

Coles Bay & Wineglass Bay (Day 9)

Thankfully the weather next day held up, and we had a lot more fun exploring the sandy coasts of Coles Bay, starting off with the Bicheno Blowhole in the morning. 

Truth be told, this looked a lot like Bay of Fires the day before, and this time we got photos with much better lighting, thanks to the sun that showed up.  

Scooby dooby doo, where are you? 

Lunch was a "poke bowl" from a small, nearby eatery called Scalefish Takeaway. It should've just been branded as seafood, vegetables and rice because it lacked the typical flavour and sauces, but at least it got some greens into my system. 

We also stopped by an ice cream shop for something sweet as we admired the view of the bay. 

After the short break, we made our way to Wineglass Bay and got onto the Hazards Beach Circuit. This one was not too challenging a hike, but the results weren't particularly unique, especially since we had overloaded on our fill of beaches these couple of days. 

View of the beach from the top. 

Then we got down to the beach. 

Behind-the-scenes of me taking the previous photo. 

Dinner that night was an interesting one as there weren't many open restaurants near us on the way to our next Airbnb so we stopped by the Freycinet Golf Club for Big Pete's Eats. The food surprised us as it featured real bold flavours reminiscent of Asian cooking, and the place got really crowded as the sun set. There was a live band playing music, and it felt as though the entire local community descended upon the place–such a hidden gem. 

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary (Day 10) 

Day 10 of the trip ended up being one heck of a rollercoaster ride for me. We started off at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where we came up close and personal with the critters that Tassie was known for. Bonus points for the place being one that puts social good and animal welfare at the heart of their mission–it was evident from the way they treated the wildlife, and most of them are only kept in the premises as a temporary solution with a main goal of treating them and releasing them back to the wild. 

Also managed to get a cheeky selfie with one of them, which I'll insert at the end of this post!

I should've seen this coming considering I had gone through nine days of intense walking and climbing without any prior training and a close-to-zilch level of physical fitness but my knee gave way and buckled when I was in one of the bathroom cubicles at the sanctuary. I fell onto the floor immediately and had sat there for a good 10 minutes, not without texting my travel buds that I'll probably be in there for a while. 

While I managed to prop myself up onto the WC using my arms, and after a while longer could stand up again, walking became quite an issue for the rest of the trip. Thankfully I could still withstand the pain and limp around, but I knew there was no way I was going to cover much ground for the rest of the hikes planned. At that point, I couldn't comprehend what had happened either, and was really afraid that I had ruined the rest of the trip for everyone. 

Thankfully, the rest of the day's itinerary was relatively chill and we drove to what became my favourite town in Tasmania–Richmond. 

 Richmond (Day 10)

First thing on the agenda was to get lunch, and we settled on one of the more highly-rated establishments there, Czegs' Cafe. It was quite nice to even have been given a choice of eatery considering some of the quieter towns we passed through in Tasmania only afforded a single option.

Outdoor seating at Czegs' came with the best form of entertainment: Fetch! 

Hot chocolate with a side of rustic homemade marshmallows, are you kidding me? This was the best thing to nurse my... buckled knee back to life. 

These well-plated dishes felt like such a luxury after some of the rustic meals we've had prior but don't get me wrong, food is food and I appreciated everything we got the chance to savour throughout the trip. 

As a self-proclaimed city girl who admittedly doesn't fully appreciate the agrarian way of life that Tasmania is somewhat known for, the bustle of Richmond felt so comforting. I fell in love with how they balanced (whether consciously or not) the quaint countryside vibes with rich and progressive culture and art showcases. 

Lavender malt liquor made from lavender from the Port Arthur Lavender Farm. 

We stumbled upon the candy store of my dreams called Sweets & Treats and I couldn't resist and got myself a waffle on a stick. 

As if the day couldn't get any better (honestly without my knee buckling, this would've been a perfect day), we headed to Richmond Bridge, which genuinely took my breath away. It was a scene straight out from an Enid Blyton book and I don't think my photos do the place justice. 

And the bridge suspends over a pond filled with ducks, my favourite animal in the world. I was living a dream at this point. 

We headed to our next Airbnb, but not before grabbing some cheese at the Wicked Cheese Company to enjoy later that night. 

This one I chose ended up being the favourite of the night. Despite its name, it's not too sweet at all, the perfect balance of salt and caramelized milk notes. 

Port Arthur (Day 11) 

Unfortunately this day completely escaped most of my memory, due in part to me sitting out from most of the activities due to my injured knee. What I do remember doing was sitting at the start of each trail with my trusty book while the rest chased waterfalls and stunning views. Of course I don't regret not joining them, it was what my body needed at that point in time. 

I did catch this view though, because it was only a short walk from where we had parked the car. 

A random meal of fish & chips I believed we had on the day, but no idea where it was from. 

We also visited the Port Arthur Historic Site but did not pay for entry into the open-air museum so it was particularly memorable. And finally we ended the day by exploring the Remarkable Cave, which was quite a sight to behold. 

Bruny Island (Days 12-13)

Our final days in Tassie were spent on Bruny Island, which I would recommend for foodies and nature-lovers alike. Even getting there was quite the experience–I went on my first-ever car ferry which took us from Hobart to Bruny Island in less than forty minutes. 

I love these photos I took of the child in the car in front of us. 

First stop on Bruny Island was Get Shucked, a farm to table oyster concept which was insanely popular and packed while we were there. I've never actually tried raw oysters before as I was always put off by the idea of them, but if I was ever going to try them, this would probably be the best place. 

The oysters were done three ways in the platter we ordered–naked (raw and served with lemon), kilpatrick (cooked in their shells, topped with bacon and Worcestershire sauce), and Asian (fried in a panko breadcrumb and sitting atop a rice noodle salad bed). 

No surprise, the fried ones were the best in my opinion, but I'm happy to report that post this trip, I've started incorporating raw oysters into my diet and do in fact enjoy them a lot. 

Bruny Island is effectively made out of two islands–North and South Bruny, bound together by a narrow strip of land called The Neck, so we headed to the Truganini Lookout which would give us the best views of that connection point. 

The narrow strip of land connected the two parts. 

We had actually climbed up the lookout twice because the first time, it was raining quite a bit which made for intense winds and dull photos. However, the rain turned out to be quite the blessing because we ended up catching two sightings of double rainbows when we drove to our Airbnb. 

The second rainbow is pretty faint here, but you can see it to the right of the more visible one. 

Another pair of double rainbows a while later at the Two Tree Point Walk. 

The Easter weekend had just past when we were staying in the Airbnb, so our host left us some chocolate eggs, which was a nice touch. 

And we can't leave Tasmania without trying wallaby meat. The Bruny Island Cheese & Beer Company served up some wallaby sandwiches with melty cheese and a side of tomato compote. It was perfectly savoury and umami, one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. 

A tasting platter of four types of beer. 

Then we headed back to The Neck where we caught the most gorgeous sunset and tried (and failed!) to spot penguins migrating home to their burrows. 

Before leaving the next day, we knew that we had to look for the white wallaby while we were still on Bruny Island. Apparently these albino creatures can only be found there due to to a lack of predators on the island, and our Airbnb on Adventure Bay happened to be where they hang out the most at. We managed to spot so many of them and they were quite a sight to behold. 

Almost as though they're saying goodbye to us. 

With that, we took the car ferry back to Hobart on the 21 of April, capping off an eventful 13 days in Tasmania. When I look back, it definitely was quite a crazy decision embarking on this trip with a bunch of almost-strangers (save for the friend who brought all of us together) but through it I got to experience some of the best that nature had to offer. 

We returned our trusty SUV at Hobart and flew back to Melbourne where we had first landed from Singapore. The city girl in me definitely perked up knowing I was going to feel more at ease for the next leg of our adventure Down Under, but I must admit to missing the crisp air and dear wildlife buddies much more than I thought I would. 

I mean, just look at that face, don't we look like the best of friends who've just spent the bestest time in Tassie together? 
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