Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day Tripper

While I'm content to be staying in one place for a while, it in no way means I'm going to stop traveling completely! Over the weekend, Ben and I decided to take a day trip along Port Phillip Bay. We rented a car (fortunately Ben is English and therefore fine with driving on the left, whereas I'm literally terrified) and drove down one side of the coast, caught the ferry in Sorrento and went up the other side, stopping at plenty of gorgeous beaches along the way.

It's coming up on winter here, meaning it wasn't the best time of year to be at the beach but the lack of crowds made up for the lack of heat! And as much as I enjoy suntanning, I've always loved cold, windy days at the beach.

The driver

View from Arthur's Seat State Park



Mine, mine, mine...

Queenscliff-Sorrento ferry

Bit too cold for 'thongs' (AKA flip flops)

Beach in Torquay

We didn't 'do' that much all day but we were more than happy to travel by car (something neither of us had done in a while), get out of the city and see a bunch of beautiful beaches! Definitely excited for day trips to come!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Our House

After gallivanting all over SE Asia, I came to Australia in search of a little stability. I wanted to get a job, join a gym, find a place to live and just enjoy being in one place for a while.

Well, I got my wish: I found a job (info and photos to come), I've joined a gym and perhaps most exciting of all, I have an actual place to call home (for a little while at least!)

Calling this flat run-down is putting it pretty mildly: the carpets are stained, most of the kitchen cupboard doors are missing, the bathroom walls would be a great research spot for anyone doing a science project on mold and there's no Wi-Fi (hence my recent lack of posts!)

Be that as it may, the location is great (it's on Chapel Street, which is lined with cool shops and cafes), the rent is cheap (by Melbourne standards anyway) and my five flatmates (two English guys, one Welsh guy, one American girl and one Japanese girl) are awesome.

Our building... note the charming grafitti

Entrance from Chapel Street

Flat 1!

The oh-so-damp bathroom

Front hall

Living room

The backyard

Baking cookies!

The Brits

I have no doubt that the novelty of leading a less nomadic life will start to wear off after a few months,
but for now the prospect of having a couch to come home and flop down on is nothing short of thrilling.

Dolphin Daze

For reasons unbeknown to me, I have always loved dolphins. As a kid I had a pair of gold dolphin earrings I always wore, I had a dolphin Barbie toy that I loved and on a family vacation to Hawaii I got to swim with them, which was pretty much a dream come true for me. So when my friend Ben, who's an oceanography major, asked if I wanted to tag along to a dolphin research session he was helping with last week I happily agreed.

Autumn day in Australia

Mornington Beach, Melbourne

Prime dolphin-spotting location!

Strolling on the beach

The volunteers, hard at work

Ben and binoculars

Not a bad end to the day.

They only saw one dolphin all day, which of course I missed when I took a break to walk along the beach. Still, a sunny day spent by the sea, binoculars in hand, helping search for one of my favourite animals... it could be worse.

Friday, May 17, 2013

back·pack /bækˌpæk/ [bak-pak]

Today as I was making my way across town to interview for a nanny job (yes, the job hunt has begun!) I was approached by a middle-aged Australian man, apparently sensing that I was from out of town. He asked me if I needed help with directions or wanted the name of a good hostel here in Melbourne. I told him thanks but I knew where I was heading and didn't need any hostel recommendations because I'm moving into a house (true story, but more on that later).

He then said something I found very strange:

"Oh, so you're not a backpacker then."

I was a bit taken aback by his comment but told him that I do in fact travel with a backpack. He responded with "ahh, but that doesn't make you a backpacker."

I guess it was a combination of the fact that I've swapped my SE Asia look for something more respectable looking (I doubt anyone would hire me wearing multi-colored baggy trousers and flip flops) and I'm moving into a (very old and run down) house, but for whatever reason this man did not seem to think I fit into the backpacker category. It made me wonder: if it's not someone who travels with a backpack, what is a backpacker? 

So I asked him. His response?

"Somebody who stays in hostels, constantly moves about, does things on the cheap and hangs out with other backpackers."

Hm. This confused me, because

I stay in hostels



I move about (27 countries in 23 years to be exact)




I (generally) do things on the cheap

$1 noodle bowl, Vietnam

and I certainly hang out with other backpackers.

Out for a bday dinner in Vietnam

Shotgunning beers in Thailand

It's not that I was offended by this man and I'm not trying to prove to him (or anyone for that matter) that I'm a backpacker, although I consider myself one. But according to his definition, don't I qualify? And if I don't, what defines a backpacker?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gday Mate!

After a couple of days in Bangkok spent shopping for cheap goods, having drinks on Khao San Road, seeing an infamous ping pong show and having a mini-spa night with some lovely ladies from around the world, I’ve arrived in Melbourne, Australia!

Last night in Bangkok

So far pretty much everything in Melbourne reminds me of home, making it easy to like. The streets, buildings, restaurants, people and even the weather are all very similar to what you’d find in Vancouver. I’m currently staying at a hostel in St. Kilda, a pleasant beachfront community chock full of backpackers located just outside of the CBD (Central Business District, AKA downtown). Its numerous shops and cafes, plus the fact that it's right on the beach, gives it a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.

While there are heaps of similarities between Vancouver and Melbourne, some things are going to take a bit of getting used to after spending so much time in SE Asia. I got so used to jaywalking in Vietnam that I'm now finding it difficult to wait for the little green man to show up before crossing the street and my jaw dropped a little when a bartender asked for $23 for two beers, a price that could have gotten me a week's accommodation in some places! While it's strange to find myself experiencing a sort of 'reverse' culture shock, I'm definitely enjoying many aspects of being back in a developed country that feels more like home, namely the lack of squat toilets!

I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying in Melbourne for but I can definitely see myself staying for a few months. I’m going to start applying for jobs next week so I’ll probably have a better idea if/when I get one.

Looking forward to seeing more of what this chapter of my trip has in store for me!

Luna Park in St. Kilda

St. Kilda beach


Autumn in May!

Southbank/Yarra River

First cultural experience in Aus: Vegemite!

P.S. If spread thinly, Vegemite gets two thumbs up from me!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adios Asia!

After seven months, eight countries and approximately 180 servings of rice, the sun has set on my time in Asia. 

Traveling in this part of the world has been a completely eye opening experience. I had no idea just how different everything, from toilets to modes of transportation, would be! There are many things that I love about Asia and am definitely going to miss...

Beautiful beaches

Riding on the back of motos

Visiting temples and pagodas

Eating cheap and delicious food

Befriending monks

Tuk tuk rides

'Interesting' fashion statements

 ... and some things that I got used to, but will not miss in the slightest

Enough said

Crazy traffic and way too much honking

In addition to adjusting to new norms, I've also learned a great deal about countries I previously knew very little about. The genocide in Cambodia, the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the Secret War in Laos, the oppression in Myanmar... while I could have read about these events from home, for me it's no substitute to visiting these places and meeting people who've experienced things first hand.

Killing fields in Cambodia

Bomb crater in Laos

While I'm sad that this chapter of my trip has come to a close, I'm also very much looking forward to the next one. It's time to explore the land down 'unda, where new people, experiences and sunsets await. Bring it on Australia!