The allure of Melbourne – by leesan
The comlumnist makes his first overseas trip in over two years.
IT is autumn now in Australia, and the weather is really nice.
On Feb 21, the Land Down Under became among the earliest countries to reopen its borders unconditionally to visitors from around the world for the first time in two years. The move has not only given a boost to the Australian tourism industry, but also triggered a domino effect across much of Asia Pacific, as more countries have started to reopen their borders too. You could say that Australia’s decision to reopen has reignited the confidence and morale of travel operators in the region. Banking on the new travel and entry rules – among which, from April 1, mandatory quarantine upon returning to Malaysia have been scrapped – I have finally decided to go on my first outbound trip in two years … to Australia!
With cooperation from Tourism Australia, my travel buddies and I have embarked on a “Grand Australian Tour”. Our first stop – Melbourne, in the state of Victoria.
Melbourne’s many firsts
Melbourne is a dynamic metropolis. It was the first city in the southern hemisphere to have successfully hosted the Summer Olympics in 1956, which saw the participation of 3,314 athletes from 72 countries and territories. This was also when Malaya and North Borneo took part in the Olympics for the very first time. Since then, Australia’s second city has developed itself into a green and relaxing destination. This has resulted in Melbourne topping the world’s liveability index for seven years in a row.
Melbourne has always placed a lot of emphasis on cultivating a harmonious coexistence between its people and the environment. There is a lot of cultural diversity in the city, perhaps due to the fact that Melbourne is an internationally established education hub. Many Malaysian parents, as well as those from other countries, choose to send their children to study in the many colleges and universities here.
There are even folks who decided to stay on after their studies and make Melbourne their home.
If you walk on the Princes Bridge pier by the Yarra River in downtown Melbourne, you will come across the city’s coat of arms with the Latin motto “vires acquirit eundo” emblazoned on it. This translates to, “We gather strength as we go”, and it is a quote from the ancient Roman poet Vergil’s Aeneid.
Yes, the city has fascinated visitors from around the world with its elegance and serenity, as well as its dynamism and vibrancy. People from many countries have flocked here over the years to learn and to make a living, which then contributes to its diverse community.
Of course, when you have a diverse community, you also have a diverse culinary culture, and Melbourne is not short of fantastic international cuisines. And speaking of F&B, Melbourne also has some of the best wines around, something which I am passionate about. The city boasts 21 fabulous wine-growing regions with over 800 wineries, putting it on par with Bordeaux in France.
At night, one has the option of having the best French, Italian, Mediterranean, Japanese or even Cantonese cuisines for dinner. I believe that the food here tastes a lot better because of the high quality of fresh local ingredients available. It could also be the constant care and love that chefs put in their work and delectable creations, too.
Even the skilful baristas here take their work seriously and yet, they always seem to have fun on the job too. They are able to take a simple beverage to a whole other level with their skills. You will be pleasantly distracted by the irresistible aroma of coffee at every other street corner in the city, which is a heavenly way to start the day.
As soon as we arrived in Melbourne, we couldn’t resist popping into the city’s legendary Auction Rooms for our first sip of coffee, while savouring a healthy, sumptuous and satisfying meal for brunch.
The brunch culture, which is said to originate from Britain, has unexpectedly flourished in Melbourne, with so many eateries offering special brunch menus. In the afternoon, a representative from Tourism Victoria excitedly said, “Come, let’s explore another cafe, I’m sure you’ll love it.”
He was right. The place in question was Krimper Cafe, and it is a very well-known establishment (there’s also a Malaysian link to the cafe).
Krimper Cafe is owned by a designer and architect, who restored part of an old warehouse and turned it into the hip and trendy coffee joint. Much of the warehouse’s original doors and consoles have either been repurposed, restored or upcycled for use in the cafe.
So far, my travel buddies and I do believe that we’ve made the right decision in choosing Melbourne as our first outbound destination after two years of “staying home”. Melbourne has all the right vibe and character to make our trip a truly memorable one.
And with its designer coffees, mouth-watering pastries and more, this first stop in our Grand Australian Tour promises endless experiences and thrills.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has travelled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.
Published in STAR 2, 2 Apr 2022