Saturday, 20 February 2016

Melbourne - If traveling was free....

Yarra River - Our hotel was on left and Flinder's Station on right
Trip to Melbourne for us was a vacation within a vacation. During our two weeks break in Sydney in June 2015, we took a domestic flight, Jet Star, to Melbourne. We had booked the flights and hotel from Malaysia. The hotel, Travel Lodge, was not fancy but very neat and comfortable and best of all was in the city center at a walking distance from all the places we intended to visit.

The best thing about our trip to Melbourne were our friends and our hosts, Fatima and Faiez, who picked us up at the airport. The adorable couple and their 2 year old son, Zayan, made this trip really memorable and in a bit you will get to know why ....

Our flight was delayed and we reached Melbourne in evening instead of afternoon. We were left with limited dinner options. In Australia the food outlets and malls close by 5pm. We were saved by a Pakistani restaurant and we had our first dinner at Bar-B-Q Lounge. Our hosts had planned dinner at Taco Bill (not bell), Mexican restaurant, but unfortunately we were not able to have it during the whole trip :(

We planned our activities for the next two days over a cup of tea at Fatima and Faiez’s home. We decided to go for this drive on the Great Ocean Road that everyone had strongly recommended back home. Great Ocean Road is a 243km winding terrain along the southeastern coast. I think without Faiez and Fatima, it would not have been possible.

We woke up really early the next morning and took the train from Flinder’s station to Fawkner where Faiez picked us up and took us to Zataar, Lebanese restaurant, for breakfast. We had Lebanese Omelet, Chicken Square, Meat Pizza and Spinach & Cheese Pie. 

Breakfast at Zataar  

The food was delicious. After stuffing ourselves as much as we could, we started the most memorable drive. 

I really don’t know how to describe the beauty of the Great Ocean Drive. It is something that can neither be captured in photographs or described in words. It is an experience. Though it is a very famous tourist attraction, but it felt as if it hasn’t been touched by humans. We crossed natural rainforests, beaches and cliffs made of lime and sandstone. It was so picturesque that we wanted to stop at every bend to take photographs of the magnificent views or to just enjoy the peace and serenity that this beautiful place offered. 

The weather was just perfect as if God really wanted us to enjoy this trip. 

At lunch we stopped at a small stopover where we had coffee and scrumptious homemade sandwiches that Fatima had packed. By midday we reached Split Point Lighthouse.

Fatima, Zayan and Faiez

For hubby and I, this would have been enough too, but Faiez decided to drive all the way to The Twelve Apostles which meant another 3 hours. The Twelve Apostles are also sandstone formations caused due to erosion. It is a popular tourist destination. Our aim was to reach there by sunset. The route to The Twelve Apostles was a different kind of beautiful. Lush green farms, pastures and meadows along the road were a refreshing visual treat.  I saw for the first time all shades of blues in the sky and all shades of green on the ground.

We stopped at one point, so hubby could photograph the cattle grazing in one of the pastures. As we stepped out of the car we understood the meaning of 'Pin Drop Silence'. There was nothing but the sound of the breeze. 

It was so serene and quiet that the click of camera could be heard. The cattle would stop at every click and look at us. After a while they started coming towards us. Though the farm was fenced and probably the cows wouldn't have jumped over it, but we all got really scared and ran away. Hubby still thinks he could have taken a few more mind blowing photographs had we not gotten so scared. 

I think they wanted to attack us for disturbing their peace
We reached Twelve Apostles at sunset as planned. The sight was simply breathtaking. A strange, comforting peace enveloped the whole area and all we could hear was the water against the shore, the cold breeze and our own excited voices. While hubby took photographs, Faiez and Fatima found coffee and hot chocolate. We sat there enjoying the cold breeze, sipping the steaming coffee and for the first time in life - listening to unimaginable silence. 

Twelve Apostles
Description of Twelve Apostles
After sunset we had to drive all the way back into the city! I think I must mention that Zayan, our 2 year old companion patiently sat through the 12 hour journey with us without any fuss. In fact, he kept us entertained with his adorable antics and joyful persona.
The second day we decided to let our dear friends rest (who actually did not want to but we insisted) and roam around the city by ourselves. Our hotel was in such a central position that there were no problems with wandering around on our own. We had breakfast near the Yarra River at Muffin Break in South Gate.

Toasts, Muffin and Chai Latte
In Melbourne there are free trams that you can take an unlimited number of times in CBD zone. One by one we saw all these tourist attractions. 
Flinder's Station

St. Paul's Cathedral
Inside St Paul's Cathedral

RMIT University
Inside Central Mall
Emporium mall
Exploring the random streets.
Graffiti in Melbourne
All these were at a walking distance. In fact not just these but other interesting things like the Public Library, Degrave's street, Block Arcade, China Town etc. We were unable to see Victoria Market that day as it is closed every Wednesday and Monday. You can see the Schedule here. Victoria market is not just an open market but, a historical landmark and a top tourist attraction. We decided to visit it the next day.

At night we took the train to Dandenong to have dinner with hubby’s friend that he had made at the Foundry Photojournalism workshop in 2014. It was such a pleasure to meet the photojournalist/social activist Barat Ali Batoor. The story of his escape as a refugee to becoming a social activist in Australia is truly inspirational. We enjoyed our dinner while he told us his story which he is going to release soon as a documentary film called Batoor: A Refugee Journey. He treated us to an Afghani/Iranian dinner at Patoq Restaurant, which was designed like a cave and we sat on floor to enjoy the food served in beautiful Afghani crockery. (Patoq has now closed down but the same owner has opened another restaurant called Perilla)
Zereshk Polo
The whole spread in the cave
Dandenong is also called the Little India which we could have enjoyed, but since it was evening, everything was closed. Barat told us that it is a hub of cultural diversity. We wanted to go again, but it was 30km away from where we were staying and we had a flight back to Sydney the next day. Perhaps on my next visit I will explore it more. 

Late in the night, back in the vicinity of our hotel we saw food trucks and vans stopped at different areas serving fresh and hot buns, pancakes and coffee. While they were giving it free to the homeless, those who could afford were buying these hot food items and enjoying them in the chilly night. We walked around enjoying the weather and beautiful lights along the Yarra river.
Yarra River at night
We woke up early and had our breakfast at this small roadside café called Victoria Café near Victoria market. The sun was bright and the warmth was comforting. 

Crepes with Fresh Fruits
After breakfast, without wasting any time we went inside the Victoria Market. I was a bit disappointed because it was full of the same stuff that I had already seen in the China Town and Paddy markets in Sydney. We just roamed around looking for something appealing until I stepped into their vegetable and meat section. The pungent smell after a while became unbearable and I started looking for an exit. But if you want to buy souvenirs, Victoria Market is the place to be. 
Victoria Market
We met Fatima and Faeiz for lunch at Northland Shopping Centre located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne where we had these gigantic burgers from Burger Edge. We spent some time in the mall which had plenty of shopping options. We had these insanely delicious pancakes from Pancake Parlour before heading to the airport.

Yes, these gorgeous, delicious, to die for pancakes!! 

Fresh Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Faiez dropped us at the airport where the flights were delayed again. Jet air was allowing everyone to board early flights if there was space. Luckily, we were able to board an earlier flight to Sydney with beautiful memories of Melbourne in our hearts

A big thank you to our hosts for this trip :) 

and seriously....  

"If traveling was free, you'd never see me again.... "  (Anon)

All photography courtesy


  1. your food pictures are always so tempting. good work

  2. As juicy as the previous posts 💖

  3. [ Smiles ] Australia is indeed a nice place.

    Also, in my case, I would prefer to eat vegan cuisine instead.

    Great article!

    1. Thank you so much for reading! Indeed it is a nice place

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