Courtesy of Wilkins Tourist Maps
On the first afternoon of our trip to Wilsons Promontory, we made a quick dash into the park, securing a car-pass for two days before driving to the coastal bays on the West side of the island to catch the afternoon and evening sun. Due to the limited daylight hours, we kept to the beaches near the Tidal River area, which included Oberon Bay, Norman Bay and Picnic Bay. You can see some details of these beach areas from the map of Wilsons Prom above. They are physically closer to the main driving route and hence more easily accessible by car without having to trek long distances.
On our last week of the mid-semester break, a couple of my friends from Graduate House and I decided to go for a short break to Wilsons Promontory located at the southern most tip of the Australian continent. Famed for its luscious combination of awe-inspiring mountains, luxuriant forests and breathtaking beaches, Wilsons Prom is located in the Gippsland region of Victoria, about 157 km Southeast of Melbourne city. Populated by indigenous wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, emus, echidnas, wombats, numerous birds as well as venomous snakes, the park is a peaceful sanctuary for all manners of beasts – including the two-legged variety.
My telling of this tale will be spread over a few posts, beginning with our preparations here in Melbourne City.
This is the faithful Hyundai car which took us across hundreds of kilometres. It actually drives better than it looks.
On the 3rd day of our Easter holiday, my family and I went to the Collingwood Children’s Farm at the recommendation of Tim Richards, to experience its pastoral pleasures just minutes away from the Melbourne CBD. Apparently, it has a farmer’s market every second Saturday which offered fresh farm grown produce (many organic) from participating farms in the greater Victoria region which surrounded the city of Melbourne. What this meant was that the farms could sell directly to end consumers (many of them were small family-owned establishments) without having to pay middle-men like retailers and distributors their share of the pie.
For a flat fee of just $2 for adults (free for kids), you can visit both the animal farm itself and the farmer’s market too. That’s pretty cheap considering that normal admission prices are about $16 for adults and $8 for kids. Certainly, a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning!
Sometime last month, my family and I went for a short break in Club Med Bintan. For those who have been there, you would know that Club Med isn’t just an ordinary holiday resort but one that is packed chock-a-block with activities, comes with full-board (including free flow *hic* alcohol) and has performances almost every night by the Gentle Organisers (GOs). Incidentally, the GMs are the Gentle Members who are guests like us, not the head honcho running the joint.
One of the things which we enjoyed about the Club Med experience was that its GOs pay special attention in getting to know you. During meals, GOs are supposed to take turns to join guests at their tables and have a chat.
In a manner akin to Disneyland, all staff members acted like cast members and they even had to perform (nightly), do little funny skits during lunchtime, and generally help everybody have a ball of a time. Of course, I guess it doesn’t help that most of them are hard core party animals (or so it seems, from the way they did the “chi chi” dance at night).
Forbidden City (紫禁城) was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 by UNESCO. Widely lauded as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, the huge and sprawling complex at the centre of the city was the home of Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors in China. Built from 1406 to 1420, the palatial city comprises 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres!
The world’s largest surviving palace complex, the palace is also widely known as Gugong (故宫) in Mandarin. It now houses the Palace Museum, which probably qualifies as the world’s largest museum too – if you exclude botanic gardens and zoos. This was also where the Last Emperor (1987) directed and produced by acclaimed Italian film maker Bernardo Bertolucci was filmed.
The characteristic red walls and iconic architecture of the Forbidden City is impressive to behold.
Built during the Ming dynasty period by the Yongle (forever happy) Emperor from 1406 to 1420, the Temple of Heaven (天坛) in Beijing is one of the many must-visit historic sites. An internationally acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site (1998), it boasts of a complex of different circular buildings interlinked by a grid of corridors, walkways and pavillions. Surrounded by a beautiful sprawling garden, the taoist temple held great significance for both Beijingers and tourists alike.
A map of the Temple of Heaven showing the extreme care made in ensuring that different building areas are linked by straight grid lines. An interesting fact which I learnt was how the various monumental buildings in Beijing were linked by a grid system.
Yes, I am back from my Beijing sojourn together with my family. It was unforgettable and memorable.
On the day of our departure on Christmas Eve, we spent about an hour or so wandering Changi Airport Terminal 2 before leaving on our plane. There, we came across an interesting roadshow cum promotion which the airport was running while celebrating the Christmas season.
I thought that it was quite innovative to encourage travellers to spend more at the various retail and F&B outlets at the airport, while providing a Chrismassy feel through the use of experiential marketing techniques. What makes this special is that it took place at an airport rather than a shopping mall. Increasingly though, airports are repositioning themselves as lifestyle destinations – in fact, the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has a casino and mortuary in it!
Courtesy of me & me photoes
Yes, we are off to the wintry weather of the Northern Chinese city of Beijing for a vacation. I hear that temperatures now are in the range of between -6 to 6 deg C, so you can bet that it is going to be quite freezing cold there. Of course, regular readers of my blog would know about our propensity for polar climes, so this isn’t surprising. My son Ethan in particular is very excited about the snow, and says that he is already dreaming of building snowman.
In the words of Dean Martin, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas….” Or perhaps Chen Lei does it better in this classical Chinese hit “One Night in Beijing”:
See you guys in 2008!
In this last of my series of posts on Melbourne, we ventured into the forested highlands of the Blue Dandenongs, which is located close to the picturesque Yarra Valley wine areas. Breathtaking scenery awaited us at practically every corner which we turned. This, coupled with the pure and invigorating mountain air, made the drive to the hilly region totally worth it.
There is something about trees, mountains, rivers and wide open spaces which attracts me. Living in a space-constrained environment here in sunny Singapore, we relish the opportunity to run wild and free across acres and acres of lush countryside. I certainly made a mental note that this will not be the last time in which we will visit Australia.
Giant Ferris Wheel and Melbourne Skyline from Yarra River
After my week-long hiatus, I have decided to pick up the pen (or keyboard) once again and to start blogging. Let me continue from where I last left off on our Melbourne trip. This time, our photographic adventures centre around the scenic and lovely Yarra River.
Just a short walk from our hotel, the Yarra River is a scenic spot for sporting fun and social activity in Melbourne. The Yarra River was very important to Aboriginal people, and its name is thought to derive from Aboriginal words meaning “ever flowing”. To us, it offered a nice respite from the buzz of the city like Melbourne’s many parks, and has some of the most splendid views of the city. In fact, it is one of the favourite spots of avid photographers hoping to catch a representative shot of the city.