A life full of romance and adventure

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I will always remember Melbourne as a place of adventure and romance.

It was there that I spent some of the best years of my life. It was there that I learnt that life is so full of vibrant possibilities.

It was there that the world came to life for me.

When I first arrived in Melbourne, it was winter. The biting cold air, so contrasting with hot, humid Singapore, shocked me awake and alive as I stepped out of the airport. It was about five in the morning. My senses tingling, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I quickly settled down in the city. As part of our initiation into Australian culture, my college organised for us a trip to Lake Mountain, a snow and ski resort. It was my first brush with snow!

There’s a shop at the resort where you can rent waterproof snow clothes and boots, so those aren’t my clothes. I also learnt that day that making a snowball is not as easy as it looks. It’s really hard to get it into a perfect round shape because snow is very heavy! And very, very cold!

We were given a choice to toboggan or ski. I chose the toboggan because skis scare me for some reason and toboggans seem a lot more fun. It WAS fun! I wish I could have stayed there for days, but it was only a half-day trip. I didn’t even get a chance to make a snowman. =(

Then again, I couldn’t even make a proper snowball, let alone a snowman.

By the way, the only places that you can find snow in Australia are in the mountainous areas, which you can find in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

That works for me. While I find playing with snow fun, I can’t take too much cold and wouldn’t like for the area I actually live in to snow.

Back in the city, I enjoyed going to the park just across from my hostel to play with possums. We’d bring fruits to feed them and they’d start coming to us in droves! It can be quite scary sometimes.

Some weekends, we would go to St Kilda Beach, a very popular beach in Melbourne, to rollerblade! Well, not directly on the beach, of course. Melbourne beaches are so clean and blue and beautiful, even an anti-beach person like me can’t resist them.

Random photo time!

My crazy Hong Kong friend posing in the train tracks while we were waiting for a train:

He is so damn brave. Not to mention totally insane.

I’ve shown you guys my sinking library sculpture photo outside the State Library of Victoria, before. Here’s another!

This is right in the middle of the city of Melbourne. I love the city area in Melbourne. Just walking down the street on a normal day is an adventure.

Really! Maybe it’s the nice weather (although Melbourne is infamous for its four-seasons-a-day weather, it’s still relatively nice on average), very conducive for strolling or brisk walking.

Maybe it’s the old buildings, looking so mysterious and regal and beautiful.

Maybe it’s the people, so infectiously full of life and fun-loving.

Maybe it’s the way the city seems to ooze romance and culture effortlessly.

Maybe so many things!

An ex-boyfriend came to visit me once and we spent many romantic nights walking down the streets together, hand in hand, breathing in the flavourful Melbourne air and taking in the quaint Melbourne sights.

I also enjoyed going to pubs during the weekends, where beer is as cheap as water. I mean bottled water, since tap water is free.

I especially enjoyed the niche pubs you can find all over the city and the suburbs. They feature artistic, bohemian decor and play alternative mood music, the perfect recipe for unwinding and chilling out after a long week of studying.

The years that I lived there felt like a perpetual holiday.

In my second semester, our college took us out on another excursion. I can’t remember exactly where. It could be Falls Creek, which is another snow and ski resort, but during summer, it turns into a nature resort for hiking and whatever.

There’s a huge waterfall.

And a huge tree with a lobang in it!

And a beach near the nature trail.

Aaaah. Victoria beaches just sparkle so. It’s killing me that I can’t hop on a train and go to one of those beaches on a whim anymore.

Another random photo!

I was hanging out with my friends one weekend when we found this place with a pretty red tree. I can’t remember where this is, either. I’m really quite bad at remembering places.

Melbourne holds a ton of fond memories for me. One of them happens to be one of the most romantic things that’s happened to me.

I blogged about it before, here. But if you don’t want to read the long story, here’s a summary:

It was my birthday. I was in Melbourne house-hunting alone. I bumped into a cute guy who was also house-hunting and we started chatting and walking together. He found out it was my birthday and ran off to buy me a gift on the spot.

We had tea together and then we parted ways, never to see each other again. It was quite a surreal, right-out-of-the-movies experience.

I would really love to return to Melbourne and relive all these wonderful memories. So far, I haven’t had a chance to, but I’m hoping, soon!

Here’s a picture of the Flinders Street Station:

I lived a few minutes away from it for over a year. It’s also quite near the famous Crown Casino. Since I lived within walking distance, I would stroll to the casino during quiet afternoons and sit at the 2-cent slot machines all day just for fun.

I never spent more than A$20, though. I’m not much of a gambler. I just enjoy being in the highly-charged atmosphere of the casino. And slots are quite fun, like a game.

There’s also the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV International), Australia’s oldest public art museum housing an amazing collection of ancient treasures to modern works, which I never quite got the chance to visit.

By the way, Qantas now has a great offer. For the price of one airfare, you get to travel to two Australian cities! In other words, pay $869 and fly to two cities of your choice. That’s almost like a double round trip for the price of one!

More info about this deal is available at www.qantas.com.sg.

The Singapore-Australia currency exchange rate is practically one for one right now, so I’m thinking it’s a good time to visit Australia.

If I get to go back to Melbourne again, I would love to pay a visit to Daylesford, also known as Victoria’s spa capital, less than an hour away from the city.

It’s a charming little town, perfect for a romantic getaway. There are natural mineral springs, spa retreats, farms, art galleries, historic shops, gourmet food and wine, and funky cafes.

Indeed, British Airways magazine even named the place “number one funky town in the world”.

It would be so romantic and relaxing!

If there’s time, I also want to visit Phillip Island, home of the penguins. I can’t believe I never went to Phillip Island when I was living in Melbourne!!

Well, it’s just one of those things in life. You take things for granted and then you miss it when it’s gone. Sigh.

Only 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is a popular tourist hangout featuring breathtaking nature, wildlife reserves and beautiful beaches.

I think it’s a great place for friends and family. I want to see penguins and koala bears and seals! OMG I didn’t get to see koala bears when I was in Australia, either. What a moron I was!

Oh, I just read that Phillip Island is also good for water sports (kayaking, surfing) and motorsports (motorcycle, cars). There are actually Grand Prix events held there.

There is also a chocolate factory!! How outrageous that I never visited Phillip Island when it was practically in the next neighbourhood! Argh!

The good news is that there’s a Come Walkabout in Australia campaign now which offers attractive, affordable tour packages to many popular as well as other lesser-known but no-less-rewarding attractions in Australia.

You can even engage a travel specialist to help you book your adventure in Australia if you want a fuss-free holiday. You just have to choose the attractions you want to visit and your specialist will take care of all flight and accommodation details for you.

You can either get in touch with a travel specialist at www.australia.com or call 1800-GO-TO-AUS (1800-46-86-287).

I’m thinking of taking a two-week break to go to Melbourne, soon. But I don’t know if the Goonfather can take two weeks off work. I think his boss will kill him. Haha.

Well, I don’t know if I can take two weeks off myself, for the matter.

But there’s so much more to do and see in life! If not now, when?

Story of a silver lining

I want to share a little story. Something I will remember perhaps forever.

It was many years ago when I was studying in Australia and it so happened that, one time, after my winter break, I flew back to Australia on my birthday.

It was early in the morning when I arrived and I had to get to work right away. I had to go house hunting.

The last time I left Australia, I had left without an apartment to come back to and my belongings were held at a storage facility. A few of my school mates who were rooming together were kind enough to put me up at their place temporarily, but I didn’t want to impose on their hospitality for too long.

It was a cold, winter morning. I was feeling a little melancholic because I hadn’t managed to get any sleep on the plane, I hated the cold and I hated the feeling of not having a place of my own.

And nobody knew it was my birthday.

Nevertheless, I had work to do. Holding the classifieds in one hand and a street directory in the other, I went on a tram ride.

On the tram, a cute-looking fellow who was standing next to me showed me an address and asked if I knew how to get there.

Quite amazingly, he was also out house hunting and the place he was looking at was quite near my first destination.

I said, “I’m going to that area, too. Why don’t we go together?”

I can’t remember exactly where he hails from, but it’s somewhere in southeastern Europe. Like maybe Romania. He looked kinda exotic, in a way, and he had come to Melbourne to learn how to be a chef.

So we had a nice chat while he accompanied me to my first prospective home (a total slum, it turned out, where everything was rusty and falling apart), after which I accompanied him to his place (not any better).

After that, he asked if I wanted to sit down and have coffee with him.

Now, I was feeling a little bold that morning. Melancholy kind of does that to me. So, of course, I said yes.

It wasn’t that he was good looking. He wasn’t, really. Just kind of cute in a peculiar way. And, of course, there was that cute accent. Not that that had anything to do with anything.

There was a quiet cafe in a quiet petrol kiosk near where we were, so there we went.

And, there, I told him that it was my birthday.

He looked delighted and wished me a happy birthday. Five minutes later, he said, “Will you wait here for me? I’ll be right back.”

He literally ran off and I sat there wondering if I was going to get mugged or kidnapped or raped or who knows what, sititng there alone.

Well, not really, I suppose.

When mystery guy came running back (at this point, we had exchanged life stories but we hadn’t exchanged names), he was holding a stalk of plastic red rose enclosed in a clear cylindrical tube. On the top, a small, white teddy bear was held in place.

It was quite a silly looking gift ensemble, actually. But that’s not the point.

He smiled at me and said, “Happy birthday to you. Sorry, this was all I could find around here.”

And wasn’t that the sweetest thing ever. I was so touched, but not totally yet.

After that, we walked to the tram stop, about to go our separate ways. I thought he would ask for my number. Or at least my name.

He didn’t.

And that, of all things, touched me most of all.

Because, out in the middle of the cold nowhere, something romantic happened to me with no strings attached.

When my tram came, mystery guy waved goodbye to me and said, “Good luck for everything,” and that was the last I ever saw of him.