Melbourne: Caffeine to the Veins

After a job in OZ, I thought I'd extend a few days and visit Melbourne. After all, Sue Wern has moved there a few months ago and it'd be nice to finally visit Ee Poh & gang too (digressing, Australian domestic flights are atrociously priced! Close to USD600 for Perth-Melbourne round trip). After an exhausting day of flying and waiting around in airports and various hotels, I arrived MEL early morning, hopped onto a bus (Starbus, door to door direct at only $20, compared to a $60 taxi for a 15-minute journey) and found myself in Sue Wern's little rented apartment unit.

It was really good to finally meet her again, her hair's grown long and Jack looks like a Japanese samurai (lol).

A quick shower later and in true Melbourne fashion, we zipped to a cafe and settled in for breakfast. Coffee is taken very seriously here and I must say, all of the flat whites I'd drowned myself in were exceptionally good.

Good to see you both again!

Sue Wern's itinerary for me includes a detour to Melbourne's famous Queen Victoria Market and on a Sunday, it was bustling!

Jack very nicely borrowed me his Mark III for photos, yay.

The array of fruits and vegetables got me all excited (a disturbing observation Vinnie pointed out to me when we were strolling through a wet market in Hong Kong). The plethora of colours and variety made my head spin with giddiness hehe. And my, the quality of the products here - all supple and fresh. You name it - cherries, berries, avocados, shrooms, seafood, meat - they've got it.

My two hosts insist I try the boreks - a local delicacy of baguette with a choice filling of cheese, spiced lamb, ham, vegetables or spicy taters - just barely an hour after a breakfast of croissant and flat white. This is turning into a stomach-ripping trip, I can tell.

The iconic Flinders Street Station where we boarded the train to Brighton Beach. 

The summer days here are long, sunny and pleasant. During the day, temperature hovers at 19-22degC, nights are a lot cooler, sometimes 15C. The breeze is chilly and it's lovely to go under the sun rays for warmth. Sun rises at 4 or 5am (was never up that early to know) and sets circa 9:30pm - definitely the best time to come and visit, IMHO.

We walked along the coast and through to the St Kilda beach - a busier part of the coastal stretch.

Complete with a theme park. What's up with beaches called Brighton and theme parks, anyway?

For dinner, Sue Wern insisted I try the rice noodles at a Vietnamese place. I was hesitant. I mean, if I want to have authentic Vietnamese food, I go Vietnam, right? But I relented (besides, Melbourne has a significantly large population of Vietnamese) and was surprised to see a queue snaking from the outlet. As I perused the menu, I was surprised to see even Bill Clinton has been there! I did not take any pictures but suffice to say, the phos (rice noodles with beef slices) were excellent, must be the juicy Australian cows.

I really enjoyed walking along the city, something almost unheard of - I suppose a combination of quirky shops, beautiful weather and plenty to see.

The next morning, I was led into this alleyway, in search of another popular Melbourne cafe.

The saying here goes, all cafes tucked in an alleyway are good and popular. It is, at least, indeed true for Manchester Press. 

Largely popular for their bagels and pulled pork (and coffee too, of course, duh). We ordered a pulled pork bagel; a wholemeal bagel with bacon, tomato and avocado; and a plain toasted bagel. ALL of them. Were so good. And the portion is just nice too, not too much you feel like a stuffed bear.

Even the plain toasted bagel is to die for. I will be perfectly happy to have that for breakfast, smeared with a slab of butter and a cuppa.

Truly a gem, this is.

Manchester Press
8 Rankins Lane 
Melbourne VIC 3000

The touristy trail continues on to the Melbourne Zoo, hehe.

What? Is supposed to be good. And it was. I liked how large the zoo is - animals are able to roam free and sometimes, interact with visitors. Nothing depresses me more than an incarcerated animal pacing back and forth in a cage the size of a toilet cubicle.

You sexy.... lemur.

Koalas were a bit of a mystique. They cling tightly to trees, seemingly in a hibernation mode and dripping wet from mist sprinklers.



Uno, dos, tres.

This is a sight that amuses me - a bunch of baboons congregating around apparently their leader (the wise looking one with long white hair) hehe.

Dinner was a 1.5 hour-long-wait affair. That has got to be some kind of record as the longest wait I've ever had to go through to dine in. And coming from someone who has lived in Singapore for the past three years, it is indeed a monumental record.

Chin Chin is a hugely popular Thai-fusion restaurant, with the locals and tourists alike. No reservations taken too, those jerks. We sat outside in the cold, getting hungrier by the minute and watched glumly as merry patrons skip out of the restaurant with a jingle in their bellies.

Maybe we were starving, but the first dish that was served was OMFG out of this world. Crispy, roast pork served with a bed of salad and the star is the sauce - wow. It was spicy, slightly sweet (I think palm sugar?), very flavourful and we wiped the plate clean. Every last drop of sauce we spooned onto our brown rice to soak it all in.

Curry soft shell crab - another amazing hit dish with us. Served in a dry curry with basil leaves.

Pork belly salad (an oxymoron, I know, hehe). It was alright, but the first two were mind-blowing. Again, maybe at this stage we were practically full so it was getting more difficult to impress.

Our starters served last - Crab cakes served with a salted egg paste. Was nice

Chin Chin
125 Flinders Lane,
Melbourne VIC 3000,

Ended the night with a stroll along the harbour.

Thanks you two for the hospitality. I had a real awesome time :)

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