31 December 2010

My Favorite Moments in Sydney (Manly Island, Ferry to Manly Island, Hanging Around the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Bridge, Featherdale, Bondi Beach, Sydney Fish Market, St. Mary's Cathedral, Boomerang Throwing)

Related posts:
Melbourne Central YHA Hostel Review and Recommendation

Because I wanted to know what else Sydney has to offer aside from the Opera House, I booked a return flight from Melbourne to Sydney via Jetstar (AUD154 or PHP6.7k). Prior to my trip to Sydney, I felt that the Opera House was overrated. However, I ended up taking lots of shots of it and with it. It appears that it does deserve the attention it gets. Overall, the trip to Sydney was memorable that's why I'd love to share my favorite moments during my 5 days and 4 nights (09Dec09-13Dec09) stay:

1. Manly Island - Although the sand in Bondi Beach was finer and cleaner, I liked the vibe and feel of Manly Beach more. I can sense a tighter community spirit and can feel that everyone was having so much fun. I guess it had to do with the beach being in an island instead of in the city. 

2. Ferry to Manly Island - I was so lucky that the weather was just so perfect when I went to Sydney. The sky was so clear - something which is said to be a rare occurrence in Sydney. The view to and from Manly Island via ferry was very relaxing and swanky. 

3. Hanging around the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Bridge - Just when I thought the opera house was overrated, I found myself taking so many shots of this landmark. I just can't help but take photos from every angle . On my first night, I ended up buying Angus Burger from McDonalds but eating it on a bench beside the Opera House.... the moment was priceless. If you're lucky, you can also get up close with cruise ships that are docked in the Sydney Harbor. I was a bit luckier because I got the chance to have a chat with a European couple who was aboard the cruise ship.


4. Featherdale Wildlife Park - If you just want to see Australia's most talked about animals (e.g, Koala, Penguin, Kangaroo, etc.), you don't have to go to other animal parks aside from Featherdale Wildlife Park. The trip to Featherdale was just included in my Blue Mountains Tour which costed AUD142.80 or PHP6.2k. 



5. Bondi Beach - Bondi Beach wasn't so busy when I went there but I enjoyed my experience nonetheless. The sand was fine and clear, and the water was a bit cold. What I like about Bondi is that it has very secured lockers (equipped with security cameras) which will make you feel at ease even if you leave valuables inside... just like what I did. 



6. Sydney Fish Market - It was a bit challenging to go to the Sydney Fish Market as it was several blocks of walk from the Sydney Explorer stop. However, the site of large King Crabs and Lobsters, and the opportunity to have them freshly cooked makes the effort worth it. This is also where you can get the famous Doyle's Fish and Chips at a significantly cheaper price. 

7. St. Mary's Cathedral - If only there was a word stronger than "love", that is what I'll use to describe my feeling for this church. It was just so beautiful inside that I'd want to have my wedding here if I could afford it. Unfortunately, taking photos is not allowed inside and I didn't want to take a risk and do illegal stuff while inside Australia given my experience with their immigration.

8. Boomerang Throwing - Throwing a boomerang isn't as easy as I thought it would be. It appears that there's a specific angle and wind direction. You should definitely try learning this if you get the chance to visit Australia. 

30 December 2010

8 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Melbourne (Great Ocean Road, St. Kilda, Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne Greeter Service, Federation Square and Flinders Station, Docklands, Street Art, and City Circle Tram)

Related posts:

I had a lot of remaining leaves for 2009 and I felt like they will be useless if I won't use them for a trip. I then decided to take my chance on getting an Australian Visa. When my visa got approved, I realized that the direct flights from Manila to Sydney or Melbourne were already expensive. I explored a bit and found out that the cheapest way will be to do my trip via Singapore. I then booked a flight to Singapore via Cebu Pacific (expensive at PHP11,078) then a flight from Singapore to Melbourne via Emirates (cheap at SGD693 or PHP23k). The total cost of PHP34k was still relatively cheap. Upon arrival in Melbourne, I was surprised when I was informed that I would be interrogated by Australian Immigration. The interrogation has got to be the scariest experience of my life. Despite all the setback, I still feel that the trip to Melbourne was worth it because of the following:

1. Great Ocean Road - this place will make you appreciate the natural beauty of Australia. You can't help but think of how such rock formations were created. The beach cove as shown below was such a hidden surprise!



2. St. Kilda - Going from Melbourne City Centre to St. Kilda beach is so convenient via tram. I liked the vibe of Acland Street, which is just near the St. Kilda beach, as it houses many restaurants and cake shops in a cozy neighborhood setting. The cake displays alone are such eye candies. There's also the Luna Park if you want to unleash your childhood carnival desires.



3. Old Melbourne Gaol - Attracting 140,000 visitors per year, the Old Melbourne Gaol is Victoria's oldest surviving penal establishment. Visitors get the chance to be treated as prisoners complete with charge details (i.e., charge, name, place of arrest, arresting officer, etc.). Remember to have your mugshot taken before leaving to make your experience complete. (Cost: AUD22 or PHP980)


4. Melbourne Greeter Service

"The Melbourne Greeter Service is a free two to four hour walking orientation of the city for visitors to Melbourne. Greeters are passionate, trained volunteers who share their local knowledge of Melbourne. Groups of up to four people can be accommodated and bookings are essential. Orientations are available in English 7 days a week (excluding Good Friday and Christmas Day) and depart from the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square at 9.30am." - www.thatsmelbourne.com.au

This service is amazing and absolutely free. The claim that, "Greeters are passionate, trained volunteers who share their local knowledge of Melbourne," is the perfect way to describe our guide, Fleur, who also shared some spending secrets (e.g., the cheap dumplings near the Greek area, the free topview of the city through a hotel's restroom, etc.).This experience made me fall in love with Melbourne all the more. If you intend to avail of this service, remember to book through the Melbourne Visitor Centre in Federation Square upon your arrival in Melbourne as you have to book several days in advance.

My tour group. (From left to right: Fleur, our Melbourne Greeter; A lady from Netherlands; A girl from Mexico; Me)
The free cityview from a hotel's restroom.

5. Federation Square and Flinders Station - This is where classical meets modern. The Flinders Station's design is very classical while the architecture of the Federation Square is modern. 

6. Docklands - The Docklands area houses several modern pieces that I personally liked including the ANZ Building and the Web Bridge. This area also houses a mall/factory outlet where you can buy clothes and other items at a cheaper price compared to those you can find in malls.



7. Street Art 

Melbourne's literal Street Art found in several streets near the Federation square

Melbourne's Other Forms of Street Art

 Restaurant Tram

8. City Circle Tram - The City Circle is a zero-fare vintage-designed tram that runs around Melbourne's central business district. Aimed towards tourists, the tram passes many Melbourne attractions including the Docklands waterfront precinct.