Sunday, April 20, 2014

Australia Part 1: Melbourne

We're back from 11 wonderful days in Australia!

  • We flew into Melbourne where we spent our first two days.
  • Next we took an overnight train to Sydney and spent two days there.
  • Leaving Sydney we rented a camper van and spent the next six days making our way down the coast back to Melbourne, seeing beaches, seaside towns, national parks, and wildlife along the way.
  • We had one more final night in Melbourne before heading back to Thailand.

This blog installment will focus on our beginning and ending time in Melbourne, and I'll post more later about Sydney and the camper van.

Traveling to Australia from Thailand is much quicker than from the U.S., but it's still a long trip.  Total flying time was about 10 hours, plus a layover in the middle.  We flew with Royal Brunei airline connecting through Bandar Seri Begawan in the tiny oil rich country of Brunei.  It was an interesting place to connect through.  The country is about twice the size of Rhode Island and has a population of just over 400,000.  The airport was tiny.  It felt like a small airport in the midwest United States.  The airline was nice though, and the price was much less than any of the direct flights from Bangkok to Australia.

Melbourne is a large modern city.  The city is relatively young at only about 160 years old, but still has a great historic charm.  The architecture is clearly inspired by its British origins, and the city feels quite European.  Public transit is excellent, with trams and suburban trains blanketing the city.

We arrived in Melbourne at 5 AM on Sunday morning.  We stayed with friends of ours that used to live in Bangkok.  We spent much of Sunday catching up with them and getting a short tour of the city.  In the evening we hopped on the train to central Melbourne to catch an Australian rules football game at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds.  "Footy" is a sport that is rather unique to Australia. I won't explain all the rules, but basically teams score points by kicking "goals" similar to a field goal in American football.  The game is played on a modified cricket field, the ball looks similar to an American football, play really doesn't ever stop, and no pads are worn.  The game we watched was between two Melbourne area teams, Essendon and Carlton.  Essendon won by a huge margin, but it was still tons of fun to watch.

On Monday Mary and I did a bit of exploring by taking the train into the city center and renting bikes.  It is autumn in Australia and the weather was very comfortable for biking around the city.  In the evening we headed to Southern Cross railway station to catch the overnight train to Sydney.

A week later we arrived back in Melbourne after visiting Sydney and camping along the coast,

We chose to stay in the city this time in part because our friends were traveling (to Thailand).  They offered to let us stay at their house even though they were away, but we thought it would be nice to stay in the city center for a night.

We booked a room through Air B&B in a nice condo building in the "docklands" district of Melbourne adjacent to the central business district.  This was much cheaper than a hotel and offered great views of the city.  We spent the evening walking around central Melbourne and enjoyed a nice dinner along the riverfront. 
The pictures below show the view from our room, the riverfront area where we had dinner, one of Melbourne's many trams, and beautiful Flinders Street Station which serves as a rail hub for suburban trains.

Overall we loved Melbourne, but Sydney an camping were amazing too.  I'll update more on the rest of our trip over the next few days.

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