I don’t think I like Melbourne just because it’s the first city that I’ve been to down under. I think I love it because it’s easily likeable. I mean, you don’t land on the top tier of the world’s most livable cities list for nothing, right? After an exhausting 8-hour flight on a cheapo airline, I wouldn’t say that I was refreshed and ready to roll right after landing, but the excitement of being in a new continent sort of overcame that. The excitement died right away at the immigration counter.
Or perhaps, the better term is “immigration queue”. Wow, that has got to be one of the longest wait times I had to endure in an immigration line. Of course, that weird night at Kansai is still the one to beat at 3 hours. This one took almost two. As for immigration formalities, there were few questions, none of them intrusive. I didn't even have to present a copy of my visa. Overall, it was fine.
The breeze was a bit too chilly for sightseeing, so I decided to kill time and have early lunch at a resto bar at South Cross Station, where you end up if you take the Skybus from the airport. Sightseeing commenced after that at Docklands because I just had to find the giant Ferris Wheel I saw on the bus earlier. But it came with a lot of bonuses because that area is just plain awesome, what with all the white of the yachts matching that of the clouds; the blue of the sea with that of the sky. It was a really beautiful day.
It wasn’t so cold anymore during midday. The sun decided to drop by and say hi. The combination of sunny and cool is just perfect for a daytime stroll. The photos I took turned out great too! But back to that Ferris Wheel, what’s it about? Well, Singapore has one. London has one. Melbourne probably thought that it should have one as well. All I remember is that I no longer bothered to ride it, which either meant I was out of time or it was too expensive. I had a lot of time that morning, so there you go.
The good thing about the Melbourne CBD is that it is a free tram zone. They have this card called Myki, which is similar to HK’s Octopus. You just load it with money and tap away. For the trams, you have to tap when you enter, and once again when you exit. I didn’t know that it had a daily cap, meaning once you have tapped in a certain amount, which I think in this case was AUD8, you would no longer be charged for subsequent rides during that day. I learned that a bit too late, which left me with a loaded Myki. Thanks, paranoia.
Anyway, if you are riding the CBD’s trams, you can still tap in and out, but your card will not be charged. I might get a little tricky if you start your journey at the free zone and end it in a paid one. In this case, make sure you tap in. Routine inspections appear to be rare, but you’ll never know! In any case, riding the trams without a card in the CBD is fine. In fact, I didn’t buy one until I had to venture out of the free zone to find my Airbnb place, which was in St. Kilda.
There’s a lot to see at the CBD. There are shopping streets if your pockets are overflowing with Aussie dollars and you just have to get rid of them. Like, damn, get rid of those before they ruin the form of your jeans! Gosh. Anyway, I immediately liked the Airbnb place I reserved. All of the Airbnb rooms I stayed at in Australia are rented by mainland Chinese students on working holiday visas, which makes you wonder how the heck they can afford swanky apartments like that right in the middle of such expensive cities.
My Skybus ticket was in tandem with a Skydeck ticket, but I opted to rest a bit and just go take a stroll at the Yarra River for that evening. I so love that river. It’s so effing chill and Bohemian. You have artists, musicians, joggers, and lost Chinese tourists everywhere. Needless to say, it’s a smorgasbord of all kinds of people you meet in large immigrant cities like Melbourne. The river’s well-illuminated at night and there are many restaurants to choose from. Think of it as an Aussie version of SG’s Clarke Quay, sans GMAX.
The bulk of my sightseeing activities happened the next day. As for my first night down under, well, I can say that I am really in love with the place. I don’t know if Sydney would be likeable or not, but Melbourne just crashed the top 5 of my favorite cities so far. It just feels so convenient to live here, and the atmosphere is not that tense, except in the main tourist areas of course but that is quite obvious. With my visa allowing me to stay for three months, I even had second thoughts about leaving altogether!