With the flight from Singapore to Melbourne in Australia at 10pm, I hadn’t managed to grab much sleep as the journey lasted an awkward six and a half hours, so I landed in quite a nauseated state. After a surprising body search and interview with the customs guards at passport control, I was glad to hop onto the bus and check into Flinders Backpackers Hostel in downtown Melbourne.
Having come from the economical way of life in South-East Asia, I was brought crashing back down to earth after Singapore in terms of western pricing, with Australia following closely behind. Flinders Backpackers was by far the cheapest of downtown offerings in Melbourne but still cost four to five times more than South-East Asia. I had also gone from my own private room to a cramped 8 people shared hell-hole. The Hostel was in a dank, dreary and quite haunting 10-storey building right in the centre of town. The reception sat in the middle of a huge communal area which was predominantly surrounded by spotty teenagers lounging around. After socialising with a few over the next couple of days, I was bewildered at the amount of them that had simply sought escapism to Australia, but that in-turn resulted in isolation within the depths of the hostel, scrapping for survival. The room I stayed was humid and stank of sweat. The windows hardly opened to let in fresh air. The corridor between bunk beds resembled a cramped cabin on a warship. It was a depressing place. But, I hadn’t much option either unless I wanted to chuck money down the drain at another more expensive hostel for a 1-night stay.
After a couple more hours sleep, I then escaped into town to buy a return bus ticket to Sydney to visit my friends Owen and Amy in Manly. Later, I then checked out the Flinders area and visited Federation Square, snapping the impressive skyline along the riverbank.
The city had a small and much more European relaxed feeling to it than I expected. It was quite leisurely, with people going about their business in a very chilled out manner. The streets were lined in blocks, with rows of shops, restaurants and fast-food chains, the roads wide with tram lines splitting through. It had an American feel to it. Heading out from Federation Square, I walked through the sprawling Victoria Park, past the Governmental Buildings and through the beautiful Botanical Gardens. As I walked on, I past the Olympic Village and Rod Laver Stadium – home to the Australian Tennis Open. Back at Federation Square, I just sat and watched the world go by. A busker kept me company outside Flinders Station making what looked like at least £50 an hour playing some out of the box Acoustic guitar.
In the evening, I ate at an all you can eat buffet in Chinatown – probably the most reasonable value at $12. The obvious shock was how it was five times more expensive for much worse food than Asia. I then headed toward Section 9 of The Lanes area to try and mingle with some locals at a couple of the bars. This proved difficult at first, with the vibe similar to London in terms of approaching people for a chat. Eventually, I settled in a more American style bar which allowed me to start up some conversation with the bar staff and a few of the locals whilst seeing the night away watching some local comedy.
The following day, I met a couple of Israeli guys at breakfast called Ofer and Yuval who had just started their travelling following completion of their 3-year military service. Having come from a 3-week trip in New Zealand and en-route to Asia, they were clearly in admiration for their freedom, talking about how much they had embraced their adventures so far, and how much they were still looking forward to Asia. Their endeavors in the army, although valuable in terms of life skills, seemed also costly in terms of self-expression and exploration.
After breakfast, we headed to the Queen Victoria Market area in the Italian Quarter near Fitzroy Street. It had a 19th century old English feel to the area, resembling parts the Eastern Coast of the U.S. We managed to pick up a delicious pie that reminded me of home and some amazing Gelato ice cream from one of the many parlours in the area. This followed a much needed carb fix in Spaghetti Bolognese, a substantial dinner before I jumped on my bus to Sydney in a couple of hours.
As pleasant as the city was, Melbourne was a town that held no real surprises for me due to its obvious Western foundations. However, the fruits of the city are probably best tasted after a much more lengthy stay.
City of Melbourne Guide
Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters