Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Melbourne

Melbourne

We picked up our rental car and found ourselves driving on the freeway towards the city. There was a toll-way, but after our last experience paying for it, I opted instead for the surface streets. Australian drivers are generally terrible. They swerve all over the place, drive too fast, and seem generally unable to follow a painted line. But Melbourne takes the cake for driving insanity. There are 12 intersections where you cannot turn right from the right-most lane (they drive on the left side of the road, so you already have a cognitive disadvantage). Instead, what you're supposed to do is to make a right turn from the left-side curb, executing in a car what cyclists call a box-turn: you drive to the corner of the street where you wish to make a right turn, stop the car (annoying anyone behind you), and then when the light changes, you can then execute your right turn after the intersection clears but before the rest of the cars move. I have no idea how accidents don't happen, but this is easily the biggest insanity I've seen as yet.

We arrived at our hotel at 6:00pm, and then headed out for lunch. By sheer luck, I walked into what was the best Singaporean restaurant of the trip so far, a place called Singapore Chom Chom. One of my favorite noodle dishes in Singapore was this dish called Mee Pok (sic). It's basically a noodle dish with fishballs, fishcake slices, minced pork (yes, that's probably how the name came about), and flat twisted egg noodles, with a spicy vinegar sauce that when done right, gives it the distinctive taste. It's served unmixed so you can mix it all. Well, Singapore Chom Chom is the only place outside Singapore I've found that served Mee Pok, and what a treat that was! Lisa also tried Rojak for the first time.

We then walked around the city some more, and I shot some night scenes and we went to bed.

The next morning was shopping day, as this was our last chance to pick up more camping gear in a big city before having to pay island prices. We bought cheap sleeping pads, mosquito veils, insect repellent + sunscreen, freeze-dried food (none of my favorite Mountain House was available, mugs, cutlery, and lexan bowls, so we had to settle for a New Zealand brand and pray that it tastes good), a hat for me, and enough ramen to tide us over for some time.

By lunch time, we were quite hungry and found yet another Singaporean restaurant, this one not as good as Singapore Chom-Chom, but we did end up meeting some Singaporeans who were living in Melbourne who could give us tips on where to go. They suggested St. Kilda Beach, the Victorian Market, the Eureka SkyEdge building for views of the city, and the botanical gardens. We went back to dump all our gear and then proceeded to take the train ride around the city. By the time we got to the Victorian Market, however, it was closed. We ate once again at Singapore Chom Chom (the Mee Pok was just as good the second time) for dinner, and then visited the SkyEdge building, which is easily the tallest building in Melbourne.

The night view was very pretty, but the place was totally a tourist trap. It was a nice enough place to watch the sunset, but the glass had just enough dirt and dust on it that pictures came out horrible. You'll just have to pay up. The gimmick here is the Edge experience, which is a glass cube that extrudes from the building with variable frosting so you can see all 88 stories below you as well as the sides and top. I think it's highly over-rated, but we're tourists, so what can we do.

By the time we were done it was 10:00pm, so off to bed it was with us.

The next day, we rented bicycles and rode to the Botanical gardens and even rode through it quite a bit before being told that bicycling was verboten there. Oops. Well, that took care of that. We then toured the veterans memorial, rode along the Yana river until it went out of town, and then came back just in time to catch a new performance at the computerized bells exhibit. This time for a change they got human performers, who would stand on elastic steel stilts and use their body weights to swing from bell to bell and ring the bells to music. There were 3 of them and we got to watch a rehearsal and a performance for the cameras.

Lisa wanted to try out a cantonese restaurant for lunch, so we did, and after that we went back to the hotel to pick up the car and drive it to St. Kilda Beach, where Lisa got a foot massage and I visited an internet parlour that was too slow for use but nevertheless had every booth filled with people performing job searches.

With that, we returned to the hotel where I paid the toll for tomorrow's trip to the airport, having finally figured out that you could pay the toll in advance! Then we went out to get some more food at the Old-Town Singapore Kopitiam (not recommended) which the Singaporeans suggested but I found not so good. We ended up back at Singapore Chom Chom for a third visit when Lisa wanted some coconut rice and I pointed out that for $3 more we could get a whole plate of Nasi Lemak at Singapore Chom Chom.
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