It is now autumn in Australia and the weather is really nice.
On February 21, the Land Down Under became one of the first countries to reopen its borders unconditionally to visitors from around the world for the first time in two years. The move not only boosted Australia’s tourism industry, but also triggered a domino effect across much of Asia-Pacific, as more countries also began to reopen their borders.
You could say that Australia’s decision to reopen has boosted the confidence and morale of tour operators in the region.
Banking on the new travel and entry rules – among which, from April 1, the mandatory quarantine on return to Malaysia was abolished – I finally decided to make my first one-way trip in two years… by Australia!
With the cooperation of Tourism Australia, my fellow travelers and I embarked on a “Grand Australian Tour”. Our first stop – Melbourne, Victoria.
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Melbourne’s Many Firsts
Melbourne is a vibrant metropolis. It was the first city in the southern hemisphere to successfully host the Summer Olympics in 1956, which saw the participation of 3,314 athletes from 72 countries and territories. It was also during this time that Malaysia and North Borneo participated in the Olympics for the very first time.
Since then, Australia’s second city has developed into a green and relaxing destination. This has allowed Melbourne to top the Global Livability Index for seven consecutive years.
Melbourne has always emphasized the culture of harmonious coexistence between its people and the environment. There is a lot of cultural diversity in the city, perhaps due to Melbourne being an internationally established center of education. Many Malaysian parents, as well as those from other countries, choose to send their children to study at the many colleges and universities here.
There are even people who have decided to stay after their studies and settle in Melbourne.
If you walk across 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’ engraved on it. It translates to “We gather strength as we go on,” and it’s a quote from the Aeneid by the ancient Roman poet Virgil.
Yes, the city has fascinated visitors from all over the world with its elegance and serenity, as well as its dynamism and liveliness. People from many countries have flocked here over the years to learn and earn a living, which then contributes to its diverse community.
Of course, when you have a diverse community, you also have a diverse food culture, and Melbourne has no shortage of fantastic international cuisines.
And speaking of F&B, Melbourne also has some of the best wines around, which excites me. The city has 21 fabulous wine regions with over 800 wineries, putting it on par with Bordeaux in France.
In the evening, we have the possibility of having the best French, Italian, Mediterranean, Japanese or even Cantonese cuisines for dinner. I believe the food here tastes much better due to the high quality of fresh local ingredients available. It could also be the constant care and love that chefs put into their work and their delicious creations.
Even the skilled baristas here take their jobs seriously and yet they always seem to be having fun on the job too. They are able to take a simple drink to a whole new level with their skills. You will be pleasantly distracted by the irresistible aroma of coffee on every corner of the city, 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 enjoying a healthy, sumptuous and satisfying meal for brunch.
Brunch culture, believed to have originated in Britain, has unexpectedly blossomed in Melbourne, with many restaurants offering special brunch menus.
In the afternoon, a representative from Tourism Victoria enthused, “Come on, let’s explore another cafe, I’m sure you’ll love it.”
He was right. The place in question was the Krimper Cafe, and it’s a very well-known establishment (there’s also a Malaysian connection to coffee).
The Krimper Cafe is owned by a designer and architect, who restored part of an old warehouse and turned it into a hip, hip cafe. Many of the warehouse’s original doors and brackets have been reused, restored or recycled for use in the cafe.
So far my fellow travelers and I think we made the right decision in choosing Melbourne as our first destination after two years of ‘staying at home’. Melbourne has all the ambiance and character to make our trip a truly memorable one.
And with designer cafes, mouth-watering pastries and more, this first leg of our Grand Australian Tour promises endless experiences and thrills.
The opinions expressed are entirely those of the author.
Leesan, the founder of Apple Vacations, has traveled to 132 countries, six continents and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He is also the author of five books.