Fresh off a chill-out weekend in Perth, I found the busy, bustling streets of Melbourne a bit disorienting at first. Quick-footed yuppies stirred the city off to a start, while tourists and a whole lot of tennis buffs looked forward to another nail-biting day of the Australian Open.
Our well-laid out itinerary for Melbourne Day 1? Verbatim, it was this: “see the city”. Okay, sounds like a plan to me!
It was good, then, that we found Melbourne to be extremely tourist-friendly. The Federation Square (home of the Melbourne Visitor Centre) was just a short walk from our hostel in Chinatown. Rows of colorful brochures would easily keep an indecisive sightseer hostage for the whole day. We spotted a few pocket maps for self-guided walks (nifty, I tell you!); I grabbed the one for navigating Melbourne’s laneways and we were off.
The kick-off point for the Laneway tour was just across Federation Square. I don’t know about you, but a walkabout through Melbourne’s arcades and back streets, with the promise of perhaps discovering your next absolute-favorite-hole-in-the-wall, sounded like the perfect way to get to know the city for me.
It was like finding yourself in Temptation Alley (the wholesome kind!). Alfresco cafes, homey bistros, chocolatiers, wine bars: with dining options like these, I fully understand why the local McDonald’s is almost empty.
After rifling through the busy passages with the lunchtime crowd, I was a bit puzzled when our map maneuvered us into what looked like a deserted alley. A few steps in, and I saw that instead of the usual line of cafes, this street offered a gallery of quirky graffiti. Neat!
Another cool thing about Melbourne was the free transit offered around the CBD area. You had your choice of taking either the hop-on-hop-off bus, or the more-nostalgic tram. After the urban walkabout, we ambled for seats on the tram, and stretched out our tired feet as we went for a free spin.
The scorching afternoon sun soon got the best of us; we went into lelang-mode and retired to our hostel for some siesta. However, that day was also the first day of the Chinese New Year, and since we were right smack in the middle of Chinatown, bells and drums soon woke us up. Minutes later, we would be rushing down to catch and
stalk watch the Dragon Dance parade.
Before we knew it, evening fell and we met up with my college blockmate, Dino, who’s currently based in Melbourne for work. On the other side of Yarra, Melbourne’s main river, there apparently laid another throve of interesting restos and watering holes! Dino indulged us in a tour of Southbank, a place which further proves that when it comes to dining out, Melbourne locals are spoilt for choice.
Not yet that ready to call it a day, we trooped back to Federation Square and joined the legions of tennis fans camped out to watch the Djokovic-Hewitt match on the outdoor big screen. If this is how the everyday after-work scene is like in Melbourne, then where do I sign up? 🙂
Great food, great vibe, good times. Thankfully, the simple “see-the-city” approach works well in a hub like Melbourne, where surprises await from almost every corner.